Mar 19 2007

The megalopatriarchy

The New York Times Magazine story about post-traumatic stress disorder in women in combat is 16 screens long, but it can be boiled down to this: Women in combat are likely to be sexually assaulted by their peers, and to get PTSD as a result, and the military pretty much turns a blind eye.

Oh, and the military is also pretty much a culture of misogynist barbarians fetishizing rigid heirarchy, which is what we refer to down at Spinster Aunt HQ as a megalopatriarchy.

”You’re one of three things in the military – a bitch, a whore or a dyke,” says Abbie Pickett, who is 24 and a combat-support specialist with the Wisconsin Army National Guard. ”As a female, you get classified pretty quickly.” (cite)

The article profiles several of the women for whom war and rape has not been an ennobling experience, describing them as haunted shadows of their former selves. They go AWOL, they attempt suicide, they become drunken recluses. As for the military, it’s the same old story. They don’t really want women around in the first place, so no one, it seems, is ever prosecuted for raping them, and nobody is interested in treating them after the system spits them back out in the US.

One interesting factoid from the article: many of the kids who enlist in the military come from backgrounds of abuse. Whereas women who have been sexually abused before joining up are typically subdued and passive from pre-existing traumas, boys who have been pre-enlistedly slapped around tend to be mean and hostile.

The army takes these aggressive, hostile boys and easily turns them into raping killbots who think women are toilets.

I suppose we’ll never know how many Iraqi women they have brutalized.

I can’t complain that the mainstream media are pointing out that aggressive men with guns rape women, a lot, and that this seriously fucks up the women, and that support systems are pretty thin on the ground, but it would have been nice if the author had managed to sneak in a tiny sentence about how (a) the devastating psychological repercussions from this kind of violence are in no way limited to women in the military, and (b) these bright young rapist-Americans had to have gotten their screwed-up ideas about women somewhere, and that place is our own encrapulated old American patriarchy. You will note, for example, that the photo at the top of this very story shows abused AWOL soldier Suzanne Swift reclining on the beach in the pose of an odalisque.

Come away with me now to the enchanted realm of Thiswouldneverhappen Land, and dare to imagine a male soldier striking the traditional recumbent pose of a prostitute on the cover of the New York Times Magazine.


6 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. Pony

    The photographer will be male, or the one woman in the photo department (working freelance with her own equipement and car, as opposed to the male car and equipment funded full timers) trying to make it in a field where she has a better eye and more skill than the men. But she will shoot what she is told to shoot, or it will be her last shot.

    I haven’t anything to say about the article itself, which I thought was good, except that writer wouldn’t have been allowed to make those comments you’ve mentioned. Either.

  2. Joanna

    Over the last several years, I have worked hard to keep the rage at bay because earlier in my life it almost destroyed me, but this article and the fact that later today I will be attending a vigil in protest of this fucking war have put me right back in that white-hot center of it. My father was a doctor in the Army during the Viet Nam war. I have a female relative who suffers horribly from PTSD because of sexual assault. Right now, the stories of these women and the knowledge of the incredible suffering “our troops” are inflicting on Iraquis and on each other makes me want to howl.

  3. buggle

    I hear you Joanna. All I could think to type was “I hate the world” or “damn damn fuck.”

    I just don’t get it. I don’t get how all this awful stuff happens every single day and so many people just don’t fucking care.

    My roommates works with the survivors of the Bhopal chemical disaster and works just tirelessly to get their very reasonable demands met (little things like non-toxic drinking water). She and others have been calling the government in India, who completely has the power and the money to fix this, but they won’t. Because they don’t care, they don’t want to spend the money. They know these people are suffering, dying, being poisoned every day. The survivors are on a hunger strike, and one official said “They can starve themselves to death, I don’t care.” !!!!!! It just makes me so mad and so sad. Bleh. No wonder I smoke so much weed.

  4. teffie-phd

    I completely agree that it would be nice if the media added that patriarchal context to this story and so many others. You know, connecting the dots between this form of rape and the other forms, but they won’t do it because journalists and editors aren’t in the business of making the connections they’re just reporting the news (or that’s what they tell me when I talk to them for my work).

    Their schtick is to give the facts so that other people can get angry. Like that’s so helpful.

    I’m also not surprised at all that women soldiers are getting raped–isn’t teaching violence the whole point of basic training?

  5. Lara

    Not only are these women ignored when they attempt to get medical care, they are repeatedly re-abused by the military. In paragraph 2 of section IV of the article, one women with post-rape PTSD was put into group therapy — with an all-male group of war-rapists and wife-beaters.

    I noticed the passive voice got quite the workout in this article, invisibilifying the rapists, as if rape is something women manage all by themselves (much as they “get themselves knocked up”, I suppose):

    “…naval construction worker who served in Iraq in 2004 and says she was raped.”

    “37 percent said they were raped multiple times, and 14 percent reported they were gang-raped”

    “if a woman veteran comes in from Iraq who’s been in a combat situation and has also been raped”

    “having been raped during her service”

    “she was raped one night in her barracks after being at a bar with a group of servicemen”

    Poking the BLAME button with a sharp stick,

  6. jami

    i thought of IBTP when i saw the acontextual lying-down-on-an-uncomfortable-beach photo.

    “…a bitch, a whore or a dyke.” i heard the author of this story on npr. she elaborated, explaining for the sheltered that you’re a bitch or dyke if you don’t sleep with male soldiers and a whore if you do.

    the women in the story were brave to speak up, so that other women in the military know they’re not alone.

  7. kcb

    In paragraph 2 of section IV of the article, one women with post-rape PTSD was put into group therapy — with an all-male group of war-rapists and wife-beaters.

    Lara, that was the coffee-spewing paragraph for me. It’s such a stupid thing to do that it seems like a deliberate attempt to terrorize the woman further.

    Twisty, that photo bothered me, too. In the context of the story, it provides an image for rape apologists to point to and say she must have been ‘asking for it.’

    I’d like to see some intrepid reporter address what military rapists do after they return to civilian life. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’s not good.

  8. legallyblondeez

    Without ignoring tha fact that otherwise “upstanding” citizens of the patriarchy commit rape, it’s worth noting that in the course of this increasingly unpopular and labor-intensive war, an unprecedented number of violent felons are being allowed to enlist. Because it’s not enough to indoctrinate ordinary people to feel no compassion and commit violent acts against enemies and women alike, we also train people who are already into that shit and send them off to do it in other countries with the power of the U.S. government behind them.

  9. LMYC

    Try telling male soldiers who have PTSD that women who have been raped (be they soldier of civilian) get it, though — and watch their reaction.

    How DARE you sully their Noble Male Suffering with a buncvh of snivelling pathetic snatches who can’t handle a little rough sex?! The nerve!

  10. Sylvanite

    legallyblondeez addressed the point that I was going to address. A lot of people who enlist, especially in the Army, often come from backgrounds of deprivation. Either they grew up poor, or they come from towns where there is no work for people their age, and often both. Given that financially stressed people tend to be more likely to act out – through abuse of intimates or violence against people outside the family, and you already have a recipe for disaster. Add the convicted felons, and I wouldn’t want to be an enlisted woman right now.

  11. Lisa

    I haven’t read the whole article yet, but that photo really bothered me as well. Like, her elbow is jammed into ROCKS! So, let me get this. She spills her guts about her rape and abuse and her PTSD and how the military didn’t care. Then the reporter/photographer said, “Hey, you know what would be cool for this story to really drive home your point? If you would go over there and jam your protruding joints into hard wet rocks as you lounge in fake sexually suggestive relaxation.”

    Yeah, I think they missed the patriarchical context of this whole story by a long shot.

  12. Come the Revolution

    “You’re one of three things in the military – a bitch, a whore or a dyke”

    I had no idea those three were mutually exclusive.

  13. coathangrrr

    isn’t teaching violence the whole point of basic training?

    No, basic training is to teach soldiers to follow orders, they learned violence a long time ago.

  14. Ann Bartow

    This post reminds me how much I learn from reading blogs like this one.

    When I saw the photo of Suzanne Swift I thought of the painting “Christina’s World” by Andrew Wyeth, often described along the lines of “a haunting portrait of a physically disabled woman and a forsaken house on a bleak New England hill…” and how Swift’s situation is the mirror image in every way, which is perhaps why we get to see her face, unlike Christina’s. But I can’t disagree with Twisty’s take at all.

  15. Amaz0n

    The whole article was absolutely enraging, but the point at which I felt truly sick to my stomach and had a lump in my throat actually came from looking at the multimedia slide show (look for it in the left sidebar). The slideshow features pictures of some of the women profiled in the story, along with audio commentary by those women as well as the story’s author, Sarah Corbett.

    The moment of complete heartbreak, and the point at which Twisty’s thesis (“these bright young rapist-Americans had to have gotten their screwed-up ideas about women somewhere, and that place is our own encrapulated old American patriarchy”) is most clearly and poignantly illustrated, lies a the recording of Keri Christensen talking about her experience with her family upon returning home from Iraq. Keri is the soldier who was run over by a truck full of bodies and, upon healing and being reassigned to a desk job, was summarily sexually harrassed by her commanding officer and then ritually humiliated and traumatized after reporting the harrassment to higher-ups.

    After being discharged, Keri returned to what should have been, in a more perfect world, the supportive and loving environment of her family home. But instead –

    “I slept on the couch for the first month or so, because I wasn’t used to sleeping with anybody, so sleeping next to my husband was really weird. He couldn’t understand that. So that kind of made him a little angry.

    Keri says the bolded bit in a voice that trails off at the end, a voice I think most of us would recognize.

    This woman went to war, endured countless horrors including intense sexual harrassment from her commanding officer, and when she came home and needed some time to decompress and get used to civilian life, her husband — the man we are all told will support us and be a pillar of strength in times of need — threw what was likely countless temper tantrums because, in his mind, his endentured fuck-sleeve dared deny him his access her body by sleeping on the couch for a month.

    Dear fucking god.

  16. Hattie

    She looks disgruntled. Is she waiting for Burt Lancaster to show up so they can get it on? Those rocks look uncomfortable. Woot!
    Glad my niece was such a blonde bitch. She did OK in the military, and if she doesn’t pull a third tour of duty in Iraq, she might even survive to retire.

  17. butter

    Goddammitfuckfuck! Absolutely true, and awful, and outrageous, and so often when I try to point this shit out to people they respond with the verbal equivalent of a pat on the fucking head, or by withdrawing and rejecting my obvious lunacy. I don’t know what to do to fixit changeit besides police my own interactions — act like a capable, competent, friendly-but-don’t-fuck-with-me, whole human being.

    Thank god for blogs, especially this one. Twisty, you hit the damn nail on the head every time.

  18. justtesting

    Try telling male soldiers who have PTSD that women who have been raped (be they soldier of civilian) get it, though — and watch their reaction.

    Yes, actually confront most men (and many women) about the fact that by far and away the largest group of people with PTSD are WOMEN who have been raped or subjected to prolonged domestic or child abuse, and they (the men) get very very angry at the mere suggestion.

  19. LouisaMayAlcott

    Hi Justtesting,

    Yeah, unless of course one is referring to *men* who have PTSD as a result of being raped by (other) men when they were little boys. Oh yeah! Then it’s trauma, big time.

  20. erin ambrose

    hey all…democracy now! did a story on violence against women in the military…

    worth a listen.

  21. yankee transplant

    The photo bugged the hell out of me. There is NO WAY a male soldier would be asked to strike that pose.
    Thanks for yet another great post.

  22. thinking girl

    women who have been sexually assaulted are 7 times more likely to be assaulted again than women who have never been sexually assaulted – whose chances are 1 in 4 of being so during her life.

    so we take women, some of whom have a history or abuse, some of which is likely sexual assault, and stick them with a bunch of violent, aggressive maniacs with guns. And the “right” to enter the military is something women fought for? jeez.

  23. Kelly


  24. Kelly

    This story sickened me to the core. Would somebody please explain to this blind chick what the photo’s about that everybody’s bitching about so that I can get suitably pissed off about that too?

  25. Catherine Martell

    Kelly: the photo is of Suzanne Swift, one of the victims, lying on a shingle beach. She is wearing a tight white t-shirt, blue jeans, and a pained expression. She has tousled brown hair, highlighted a sort of orangey blonde. She has a large tattoo on her left wrist. The way she is posed, she’s propped up on her right elbow, with her left shoulder back and bosom thrust forward. Her left hand is clasped between her knees, as if shielding her pudenda. The pose is not overtly sexual, but it is suggestive of submission and a voluptuous sexuality, and slightly like a sort of sad, foxy little mermaid washed up by the tide. Everyone above is absolutely right to suggest that no man in Ms Swift’s position would be asked to pose like this.

    Now I feel like a right pervert for analysing that picture at such length. Still, I hope it helps you out, and I hope I’m not over-reading it.

    Meanwhile: “I suppose we’ll never know how many Iraqi women they have brutalized.”

    Nope. Current estimates for how many Iraqis have been killed range between 60,000 and 600,000, and that’s something that actually gets reported so you have some hope of counting it. There has never been a remotely credible statistic produced for the number of women raped or assaulted in any war. Even if the statisticians think to ask, they don’t get answers.

  26. Scratchy888

    Regarding the photo, what does seem a problem is that for a woman to show herself as damaged — for example, by looking you straight in the eye, with an expression of grief on the face — is to undermine herself completely. Then, she is nothing but spoiled goods. In fact, she ceases to exist at all, according to the predominant value system which encompasses our social interactions. So, women cannot show what is true without negating ourselves. At best, damage can be shown indirectly, by the odd angle to the camera, the passive position of lying down, and by not gazing directly at the camera. By this pose, the woman can act as if she does not know herself the extent of the damage. Thus the male viewer can reassure himself of his superior knowledge (about judging the extent of her damage) and thus would not lose face by gazing upon a damaged woman who knows at least as much as he feels he does.

  27. roamaround

    It gets worse. As the imperial megalopatriarchy expands, it starts its recruitment younger and younger. Every day, I have to watch teenagers marching around with fake guns, barking commands at each other and using the taunts “pussy” and “gay” as the ultimate insults.

    ROTC and military programs are mushrooming in high schools, even elementary schools, all over. With few good alternatives, low-income girls sign on in large numbers. The long-term effects of this mass brainwashing are terrifying to contemplate.

    There is an anti-militarization movement, but it’s very male lefty and doesn’t much address misogyny in the military or within its own ranks, in my experience. Like the sixties lefties they tend to see girls on the sidelines, the ones who say yes to the boys who say no, not as directly wounded by war and militarism.

  28. Kelly

    Jeez, now I really feel sick…but thanks.

  29. Monika

    Quote: “Given that financially stressed people tend to be more likely to act out – through abuse of intimates or violence against people outside the family, and you already have a recipe for disaster.”

    I would like to respectfully disagree. I think that abuse crosses across all socio-economics, but poor folks are more likely to actually get busted for it.

    But yes, being poor is very stressful. (And it doesn’t make men rapists.)


  30. lawbitch

    Thanks for pointing out that myth, Monika. Domestic abuse occurs in affluent families as well as poor families. A gilted cage is still a cage.

  31. lawbitch

    That should read: A gilded cage is still a cage.

    Having just finished filing my taxes, my brain is fried.

  32. mearl

    I wonder what kind of a revolution we’d have if every woman who has had a sociopathic asshole (read: guy with sense of entitlement) rape her, every woman who has experienced sexual assault or fear of sexual assault in her lifetime, and every woman who knows and loves and is close with a woman who has survived rape, took to the streets and made noise about it, collectively.

  33. jami

    “‘…a bitch, a whore or a dyke’

    I had no idea those three were mutually exclusive.”


    For anyone tempted to ascribe rape and brutality to the realm of the unwashed poor, please recall that frat boys are lawyered-up faster’n their victims can find a Wal*Mart with EC in stock.

  34. bigbalagan

    So here’s something strange that you might not experience unless you see the physical copy of the magazine. It’s a fairly stark cover, showing Keri Christensen on the right, in the image you can see if you click through to the multimedia and click her name on the top tab. She’s standing in camo, holding a dress uniform in a dry-cleaning back, and barefoot in the carpeted corner of a room. Here’s the text, which runs down the left side of the cover in black type:

    More than 160,000 women have been deployed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have experienced more lethal attacks than American women did in Vietnam. Many have reported being sexually assaulted, harassed and raped by fellow soldiers and officers.
    They are, in no small number, traumatized and unable to find their way to their former lives.

    For the Times this is an extremely strong criticism of the war (for the Times, mind you)—and my question is, why now? Why so long into the war?

    In the “Back Story” blurb that the mag puts on the table of contents page, the story is positioned as something Sara Corbett uncovered as she was doing a story on wounded returnees during the first year of the war. “It took two years of dogged traveling and interviewing for Corbett to meet and gain the confidence of the women she writes about this week…’It wasn’t until last spring and summer that I started to find women willing to talk on the record.'”

    I’m not quite sure what I find disturbing about this story appearing in this form at this time. (I mean, did blamers imagine this sort of shit wasn’t happening? not—so it’s not really new news.) Does anyone else find this conjunction strange? I guess I just question when the mainstream media start peddling stories about rape—whether it’s Willie Horton or something like this story, which the country obviously needs to hear, but needed to hear a long time ago. No surprises here for Iraqi women readers, that’s for sure…I guess this sort of thing escaped the original “embedded” war reporters.

  35. Adairdevil

    If anyone wants to compare/contrast, Salon did a story on this on the 7th:


  36. pisaqauri

    Next there will be a calender entitled “Hotties of War”
    and there will be interviews with the featured BOMB(“hehe!”)shells
    and all the media shenanigans of tons and tons of exposure for “empowered” women who have *choice*
    and who *chose* to bare camo bras and panties next to their military rapists (the girls chose to be raped, see)
    and their smiles will stretch that thin embalmed look of “liberation”
    and men will jack off to it
    and women will start signing up for “Hump Your Lietunant” dance classes at gyms
    and all will be right again in the world

    Patriarchy blaming can be a lonely place.

  37. ceezee

    “I have worked hard to keep the rage at bay because earlier in my life it almost destroyed me”

    “I hear you Joanna. All I could think to type was “I hate the world” or “damn damn fuck.”

    I just don’t get it. I don’t get how all this awful stuff happens every single day and so many people just don’t fucking care.”

    Yeah. I’ve been a little ball of rage lately since my eyes have been opened to all of this and it’s, well, exhausting. How do you cope? How do you not just want to throw things all the time? A friend suggested that I may be in the anger stage of grieving the loss of my naive blindness to the patriarchy, and that I’ll eventually move on through the depression, bargaining, acceptance bit, but I’m not so sure that’s accurate. It’s just that there’s a lot of shit to get angry at.

    How do you keep that rage at bay and not just slip back into ignorance?

  38. Sylvanite

    Don’t get me wrong. I was not intending to suggest that rich people don’t indulge in abuse. Of course they do. I was going based on my readings about school-age boys; coming from a household headed by a “low-status” male, i.e. poor, blue-collar, unskilled laborer types, seems to lead the boys from such households to be more troubled in school. They seem more likely to get into fights, and to do poorly academically. Then, I extrapolated a bit. I’m not a professional in the fields of mental health or sociology, but my husband came from such a household, and his schooldays were filled with physical violence and academic screwup. He’s come a long way, but I still shudder when he tells me stories that make it clear that the only time his dad showed him approval was when he was getting into fights. His dad also told him he should join the army (he didn’t).

    Some firm stats would be nice, though. I’m probably overgeneralizing.

  39. Mar Iguana

    “Patriarchy blaming can be a lonely place.” pisaqauri

    The loneliest.

  40. ginmar

    I’m a combat veteran and I just got out of a month-long program to keep me from killing myself. The guys get all the treatment and the anti-anxiety drugs; the women get patronizing homilies. I was in a group with shoplifters and wife beaters, who’d talk about disembodied body parts walking down the hallway while the (male) shrink sat silently. The guys had me labelled as a man hater within days—-I didn’t smile all the time.

  41. Twisty

    How do you keep that rage at bay and not just slip back into ignorance?

    It’s the duty of the prisoner to try to escape! What I did, ceezee, is I started this blog. It serves numerous sanity-preserving functions: it keeps my writing chops up, it allows me to decant my rage more or less constructively, and when I get a hell-yeah from a reader, it means that at least one other person gets it, too.

  42. B. Dagger Lee

    In Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery, the Aftermath of Violence From Domestic Abuse to Political Terror, she explicitly compares and links trauma and PTSD to women and children (incest, battering) in the family under the patriarchy, with political violence (war, terrorism) and the trauma to soldiers. It’s an important feminist book. I recommend it to everyone.

    I’m also a fan of Pat Barker’s Regeneration Trilogy, historical novels about PTSD in soldiers during and after WWI. And they’re well-written.

    yrs, BDL

  43. Sara

    I thought that was an amazingly useful article. Thanks for the link.

    Also, “Thiswouldneverhappenland” is now a permanent part of my vocabulary.

  44. lawbitch

    From wikpedia:

    “Many experts, including Lundy Bancroft and Dr. Susan Weitzman, psychotherapist and author of Not to People Like Us: Hidden Abuse in Upscale Marriages, contend that abuse in poor families is more likely to be reported to ER staff, police and social services by victims and bystanders. Also, low-income perpetrators are more likely to be arrested and serve time in jail than are their wealthier counterparts, who have the social and financial wherewithal to evade public exposure.

    The degree to which abuse correlates with poverty and the extent to which poverty causes abuse or abuse causes poverty are ambiguous. To date, more data on abuse has been collected from low-income than middle and upper income families. This does not necessarily confirm that domestic violence is more prevalent among poor families than wealthier ones, only that the population most readily available for study is predominantly low-income.

    It seems premature to conclude that poverty is an important causative factor in domestic violence or that domestic violence causes poverty. Poverty increases the chances that low-income populations will be identified and studied, but this has resulted in a skewed, self-selected sample that does not reflect the incidence and demographics of abuse in the population as a whole.”

    NOT that I’m your research monkey or anything. LOL! ;-)

  45. fuzzyblue


    Just to make it a little worse, while Catherine Martell did an excellent job of describing the sexually suggestive way Suzanne Swift was positioned, in case you’re not familiar with the term “shingle beach” (as I was not), it’s a beach composed solely of small rocks, no sand. Ms. Swift is bearing the weight of her entire upper body on one elbow, and leaning on that elbow on those little rocks has got to be excruciatingly uncomfortable for her. That she would be asked to pose that way is appalling.

    Also, YAY! After a year of lurking, I’ve finally pushed the Blame button. Twisty, I love your blog.

  46. johnieB

    LYMO, justtesting, and all:

    firstly, let me say I haven’t read the article; I must approach reports on this topic with care.

    Y’all are certainly correct in noting that, for many, the “my trauma’s special” is not only an obstacle to “personal” healing, (as if that were separate from abolishing the Patriarchy) but is active participation in the re-enactment of trauma for others. This appears to be the “divide and conquer” tactic often noted in the struggles against racism.

    In my generation of veterans (Vietnam), those who are beginning to get some notion of how PTSD affects their lives, are often sympathetic to women soldiers’ trauma, though working together in groups still presents challenges specific to inter-gender exchanges. It’s slow and difficult work, to which no one comes because of aptitude or interest, but because our experiences demand it. Slowly eroding the consequences of trauma, from war, patriarchy, or, inevitably, both, is frustrating; we want to smash those consequences in a moment, but they remain unbowed, and return.

    It’s not only a matter of being uninformed, I think, but of shifts in gender identity; injured male soldiers may feel feminized by their weakness and vulnerability, while females are trespassing on quintessential male turf: combat. these challenges may contribute to anxieties, a perceived need to “return” to a pre-trauma reality, etc.

    The idea, much less the reality, of female veteran rape survivors, being placed in support groups with male combat veterans or a bunch of shoplifters doing their community service, triggers my rage, so I may have not done the justice to this topic I would have liked. All veterans deserve better, but most have come not to look to others, but only to ourselves, for help. Even those who really want to help just can’t figure out how to do it, a parallel with women’s experience that has often struck me.

    I intended this as a contribution, and not to contradict anyone’s input: only to add a little more to understanding. I hope it makes sense, but trust I will find out soon enough where it doesn’t. And, in all such cases, IBTP.

  47. brooke


    Shall we inundate the Times with letters of patriarchy-blaming outrage? That is, outrage at the photograph, outrage at the lack of indictment (or even discussion!) of our civilian rape culture, outrage at what PTSD means for men vs. women, outrage at the fact that this story comes along after 4 years of war…

    I’m not suggesting that a letter to the Times is some kind of panacea, but there are a lot of us who are angry, and perhaps with a flood of angry emails, one of our voices would reach this big audience.

    I commit to sending an email today, and hope the rest of you eloquent blamers will too!

  48. mearl

    I find johnieB’s comment on male perspective interesting, that if guys have any weakness they feel “feminized.” Why don’t they just feel “human,” and why can’t they understand that by pretending they are invulnerable, they are constructing masculinity as an inhuman structure that leads to violence and repression? It’s so ingrained, this business of masculinity and femininity, that it never ceases to astonish me. I think it’s blatantly moronic to run around supposing that you are superhuman in the first place, all the while wrecking your own life because of the denial.

  49. LMYC

    Regards poor and rich men and abuse — before I threw in the towel on the whole mess, the only BF I had who crossed the line to physically threatening and was consequently dumped was a very very wealthy little white golden boy. He’s probably still like that — a hideous manipulator, a real Hannibal Lechter type. Dumped, and deservedly so.

    And white. And rich. And under no circumstances will he ever be held accountable for any of it, nor will he stop. I’m convinced that eventually, they’ll find a bunch of cut-up underwear belonging to disappeared fifteen year old girls in his sock drawer or something, and he’s got the money and influence to serve about six months for it. I’ll take bets, in fact.

  50. LMYC

    In order to feel feminized and human one would have to acknowledge women as humans, an utterly insurmountable roadblock.

    The thing that stops me every time about that is that how the hell can they believe so strongly that women are worthless nothings and then mouth nonsense about “when a man loves a woman” and all that love-song rot? I’m sorry — what the fuck does “love” even mean when it comes out of their mouths? I don’t think they’re capable of it, really. At least, not toward us. Love means respect, the desire to emulate, admiration, the desire to see someone succeed, the desire to support them because their goals are valued … none of which has to do with what they feel for us, all of which are feelings they reserve for other men. What the hell does “I love you” even mean when one of them says it to a woman? “Wash my socks?” “Gimme your pussy?” “I feel abandoned by my mommy?” What?

    If they are so fucking disgusted by us, what the hell is up with them wanting us around all the damned time? Why do they even HAVE rejection fears? Why do they go postal when they get divorced and start shooting up the local McDonalds? If we’re so hideous and revolting that merely being compared to one of us is enough to send them around the bend, then why do they even bother pretending to “love” us?

    I really don’t think they’re capable of it. I don’t think they know what the word means. And don’t go all not-my-Nigel on me either, okay? Let’s face it, if a man is even vaguely capable of “loving” anything without a penis beyond wanting to screw it, it’s going ot be after a shitload of introspection and truthful self-examination that um NONE of them have ever done, sorry.

  51. Joanna

    ceezee, in answer to your question about how one deals with rage, and speaking only for myself, for many years, I either turned the rage about injustice, oppression and dudely entitlement inward (what I’d been taught to do) or (mis)directed it at others who were either not directly responsible or who could not possible understand why my response was so vehement or seemingly out of proportion. For years, I was punished for being angry and thought that made me a bad person, even as I knew that anger was often an appropriate reaction to something. I have not eliminated anger from my life; I have tried to cultivate a healthier relationship to it. It is appropriate to feel anger or even rage about these kinds of things. But how to keep from burning up in it? or unleashing it on others in ways that are harmful or counter-productive? It helped (helps) to learn more so I could put a name on things (“this is oppression”) and to talk to other people to realize it was not just about me. It helped to learn more constructive ways to speak out (Stop! No! Don’t talk to me that way! When you do X I feel Y. Have you thought about what you are doing? This is wrong!) instead of just living like a human flame-thrower. It helped to get involved in groups where I could put my ideas and feelings to use and see that my anger could be turned to productive action, even if it was a very small thing that got accomplished. I made a commitment to myself to continue to do this work of connecting my consciousness with my actions as a parent, a friend, a teacher, a colleague. I don’t beat myself up about not being able to change the world all by myself. I read blogs like this to learn and connect and remember that I am not alone in my responses, even if those around me don’t always get why I “have to be so intense.”
    Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietname buddhist and peacemaker) says anger is like compost; it is part of transformation. Or anger is like the fire that you can use to boil your potatoes. It can serve a useful function if we put it to work.

  52. Catherine Martell

    mearl: I agree. The patriarchy and its ridiculous enforcement of gender roles messes everyone up – men too.

    I found johnieB’s contribution interesting, as well. Good luck to you with the whole recovery thing, johnieB. I’m not at all surprised, and nor am I offended, that men use “feminised” to mean “made weak or pathetic”. After all, that’s basically what it means when applied to women, too. “I am very feminine” = “I dress up in frills, giggle a lot, and love to stay at home embroidering antimacassars and icing fairy cakes all day. My greatest joy is to please men: I have no power, I have no body hair, and my vagina smells of appleblossom.”

    Is it Judith Butler that pointed out that *all* femininity is drag, whether it is performed by women or men? Think so. She was spot on there.

  53. Frumious B

    There’s some good analysis of the pictures, along with the usual assortment of asshats, over at Lindsey’s


  54. Moira

    Because to admit any weakness is to be less of a man. Things boys are told growing up: Boys don’t cry, ever. Rub some dirt on it, walk it off, man up, son! I’ll give you something to cry about! Only sissies and faggots are weak.

    Showing weakness means that you get beat up. It’s standard primate behaviour.

  55. ginmar

    Showing weakness, if you’re a girl, conforms to all the stereotypes of women in the military: sluts, lazy, malingerers, gold diggers, white trash, black trash, manipulative, eager to avoid work, eager to entrap men, fakers of illnesses, and so forth and so on. Every complaint a woman makes is automatically discounted by a sexist guys. There are decent guys in the military but what I want to know is why they never step up in public and nail the harassers who are harassing female soldiers right in front of them.

  56. hedonistic


    Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose: This from a 2004 article from Ms. Magazines on rape in DoD:


    In May, Sanchez proposed legislation to replace the military’s antiquated sexual- assault laws — enacted in the 1950s — with the type of civilian laws now in use at the federal level and in 38 states. Article 120 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice doesn’t recognize date or acquaintance rape, and it still places undue emphasis on a woman’s behavior rather than on the perpetrator’s, according to Sanchez.

    But faced with Pentagon opposition — the military claimed, despite 15 years of studies, that it didn’t have enough time to review the proposal — the House Armed Services Committee rejected Sanchez’s bill.


    Looking at the DoD rape statistics I realize that the number of assaults just keep going up, and up, and up.
    Three years later I wonder what they are?

  57. Sylvanite

    Thank you, lawbitch. That makes sense (and, no, you are certainly not my research monkey!). I guess I’ve been looking at the problem from when I first started to look into sociopathy (antisocial personality disorder). I wonder if part of what leads to more “discovery” of abuse is a greater proportion of poorly socialized people among the poor. Not that I’m suggesting that poor people are antisocial, or otherwise pathological! What I remember, and maybe I can find the article, was that there are some sociopaths that are very good at “faking” normal human feeling, like the fellow LMYC dated, who will likely go undiscovered. There are others who are very bad at hiding their essential natures. They tend to end up with chaotic lives, getting fired a lot, more likely to come to the attention of law enforcement, and so on, due to inability to hide their antisocial behaviors.

    So, yes, I was looking at this from a perspective of pathology. And, yes, I got started because I saw what seemd to be classically antisocial behaviors in my husband’s family. I don’t know if any of them would ever be diagnosed with antisocial personality disorder, but there are a lot of stories of needless trouble, firings, conflicts, etc.

    They’re slowly eliminating access to the internet here at work, so I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to come here during the day. Rats!

  58. Antoinette Niebieszczanski

    Dang, Sylvanite, I will miss your always-valuable, well-thought-out contributions.

  59. Blamerella

    I’d like to see some intrepid reporter address what military rapists do after they return to civilian life. I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that it’s not good.

    They get reabsorbed into Bush’s base.

  60. Sylvanite

    Wow, thanks, Antoinette. I’ll just have to make sure I check in in the evenings from home. I don’t think I could make it without my daily dose of Patriarchy Blaming.

    Plus, I don’t know yet what the carnage will be. Probably enough that we won’t actually be able to do our jobs, so they’ll have to backpedal. Frankly, I consider IBTP an essential part of my daily productivity!

  61. Sylvanite

    Oh, and mearl, your analysis of how men deny their essential humanity (in the form of their “weakness”) is absolutely spot-on.

  62. claw

    How gorgeous is it that the acronym for Wisconsin Army National Guard is WANG? Would that all such unions of the patriarchy were as “duh”-obviously self-evident.

  63. CafeSiren

    “You’re one of three things in the military – a bitch, a whore or a dyke”

    Actually, replace “the military” with “if you’re a woman, anywhere, anytime”, and you’d be a bit closer to the truth. That was what floored me about this: as if there’s anywhere that a woman gets to be anything else.

  64. al

    …as if there’s anywhere that a woman gets to be anything else.

    Hey, that’s harsh. We get to be bipedal uterii, too!

  65. LMYC

    Ginmar, I can’t help but think that if they were really decent, they WOULD step up in public.

  66. cycles

    And the winner for Lame Frat Boy Comment Of The Week at Lindsey’s:

    LB is such a little bluestocking scold. So what if they’re cheesecake? Any pictures that can make fat girls hot are OK with me.

    Can I get “Bluestocking Scold” tattooed across my forehead? Or rather, across my boobs, because that’s where the people I want to read it will most likely be looking.

  67. Scratchy888

    Love means respect, the desire to emulate, admiration, the desire to see someone succeed, the desire to support them because their goals are valued … none of which has to do with what they feel for us, all of which are feelings they reserve for other men.

    My father used to chase me out of the house, proclaiming his “love” for me. I said to him, “That isn’t love, that’s hate!”

    The desire to dominate, control and drag a person down as an experiential witness to your own level of misery is called “hate” and its vehicle is self-pity.

    Once he told me, “At this moment in time, I think I am as normal as I can ever be, so you should take full advantage of that and form a good relationship with me right away! I think that in the past I thought you were just part of my brain, which wasn’t functioning as it should.”

    My father is the kind of person who is upheld as a good citizen in society, because he has an outwards demeanour of conformity, much of the time. In relation to him, my stories are discredited. IN fact, I have been considered the hating and hateful one!

    He is a very damaged person who will not get help because the system does not see male dominance (even in the form of his confession: “I thought you were a malfunctioning part of my brain.”) as pathological. Instead, I am the one who has often been viewed as pathological for having taken evasive action against male abuse and dominance — especially within my own family.

  68. cycles

    New theory: the pentagon opposes gays in the military because it has seen the depths to which its Nice Straight Boys will sink in the presence of fuckable holes (i.e. women). When they limit the personnel to straights, only the worthless ones with vaginas are violated. But if you add a bunch of evil rampaging faggots to the mix, someone valuable might actually get raped, and we just can’t have that.

    Another evil thought: to what degree does the very well-known lack of prosecution for rape entice a small number of would-be servicemen to sign up? I’m not saying that all, or many, or even a statistically significant number of servicemen have rape on their mind; I’m just wondering out loud whether the fact that women are clearly treated as fuck-holes with no recourse has an effect on potential male recruits who are worried that the military is becoming less of a bastion of unmitigated patriarchy.

  69. Miller

    Barely off topic, but hear me out…please:
    Can we do something to fight back on “liberal” blogs with their thinly veiled misogynistic “missing white woman” rhetoric to mock the very real threat of male violence agaist women and girls by highlighting that the vctims were WHITE, thus somehow becoming this disturbing face of white privilege, racism (cleverly forgetting that it was white MEN who were/are the powerbrokers) which justifies the mocking of their deaths?! And it’s not as if they’re using this to raise awareness on the plight of male violence against women ad girls of color, either as they completely pass over the femicide in Juarez, a glaring omission, and obvious domestic concerns. Please. Seriously, this is huge. What’s worse is that they have the audacity to criticize the GOP for being “intolerant” b/c of their homophobia yet these same liberal white men would never mock a gay bashing episode by saying, “Oh, another WHITE gay man bashed today.” I can’t stand reading the DailyKos and other blogs b/c they’re not only proud bigots but outrageously hypocritical. Hilary is routiney denounced as a “hag” and worse yet they would never attack a gay man as a “fairy.” Again, homosexuality is not an immutable trait, gender is.
    Can this blog organize to keep tabs on them and then counterpunch them? Or at the very least, can we prepare counterstrikes on how to attack these bigots? Maybe we can try working with other similar-minded blogs, like Feministe or Pandagon? Seriously, this is so horrible. I wouldn’t post on this thread if I didn’t think it was that appalling and urgent. And it does fit in with this story, considering that since the patriarchy has now cast white women as the face or white privilege or racism, it’s easy to see why Salon readers mocked these white female soldiers and dismissed non-white female soldiers. Please.

  70. mearl

    Thanks for the comps, Catherine Martell and Sylvanite! I agree with brook and Miller that once we are made aware by fabulous bloggers about articles by mainstream media that are filled with holes and glaring omissions, as well as other blogs that are filled with pitiable analyses and misogynist speech, we should launch a typed assault. I’m all about action. I don’t tend to be objective or careful since I’m not experienced about things on the net. What do you think, Twisty?

  71. LMYC

    You didn’t ask me, but I just had to make the following observation:

    1) Men perpetrate a real, physically damaging, sustained assault on women.
    2) Women perpetrate a verbal, typed, reasoned campaign of nonviolent logic on men.

    Guess which one will be accused of hating the other gender?

    At this point … well, yeah. I do hate them. Oh, well. *cue the violins* And my SAYING that I hate them is still seen as more pitiable and regrettable than them hating us with their fists and penises.

  72. ginmar

    LMNC; That’s what I fear. Bros before hos, evidently. It is the final sticking point, the thing I cannot get over.

  73. Miller

    Last post, I swear: I used the homophobia angle instead of racism or anti-Semitism to drive the point home over the hypocrisy of fighting the intolerance of the GOP because the latter two are so well respected that when sexism or misogyny is compared to either, feminist concerns are openly mocked as, “Well those are serious issues, your issues are trivial, at best.” It’s not ’till most recently that Dems even had the courage to attack the GOP on the homophobic front for fear of being “against God” and since it involved a (largely) mutable trait, I thought it would be a good way to stress that if this issue of homophobia is finally being taken seriously to the point where even slurs are denounced, so should the extremism that is violent hatred against a person with an immutable trait (female). I write this to make absolutely certain no one mistakes a hastily written post on a computer that kept freezing on me as remotely homophobic. God, I hope my fears are just nonsense.

  74. Fiona

    For what it’s worth, Miller, I understood.

  75. thebewilderness

    I think we got the analogy. Like others here I stopped reading sites like Kos because of a specific insulting action that the women commenters objected to and were told they were not welcome if they were not willing to stfu about being objectified. Markos made no bones about the fact that he considers our half of the population a special interest group that should help the right people come to power and then they will have time to consider doing something about our problems.
    Recently the Coulter remark brought out the ugly in comment threads you would have thought better of. On some blogs comment threads your objections will be considered. Most of the time you will be told to get out.
    Given the recent WTF that pinko brought to IBTP I’m not sure there is any way to tell an asshat that they are an asshat. You see, they have their head up their ass and cannot hear anything but the echo of their own voice.
    If some egregious behavior takes place I would be happy to join the blogswarm. I just don’t think it does any good when the blogger is every bit as misogynistic as the commenters.

  76. Catherine Martell

    Miller: it’s OK. But LMYC has again provided the nail/head moment:
    “1) Men perpetrate a real, physically damaging, sustained assault on women.
    2) Women perpetrate a verbal, typed, reasoned campaign of nonviolent logic on men.
    Guess which one will be accused of hating the other gender?”

    I have tried it so many times, on the net and in real life, throwing myself gamely on to the racecourse in front of the stampeding patriarchy. All that happens is you get stomped on. The vitriol with which patriarchs respond to even the mildest suggestion that women might be human beings constantly amazes and depresses me.

    Occasionally I have even gone back to first principles and tried to explain that, yes, subjugation of women still exists in the world and yes, it is a problem worth addressing – but there’s so little point. It’s like trying to explain the finer points of quantum mechanics to a band of angry gorillas. They won’t get it, they don’t want to get it, and they’ll probably tear you to pieces before you get anywhere.

  77. Pony

    On some so-called feminist blogs yes, Catherine. But here, no. Speak your piece, I am listening.

  78. faker

    miller, i went on digg and pretended i was a republican man a few weeks ago. they were all outraged that some middle school boys were arrested for groping middle school girls who hadn’t asked to be groped (you ALL know what i’m talking about).

    so i turned on my inner bill o’reilly: what’s the country coming to when the fucking liberals arrest people with good american values for a grabbing a 13-year-old’s tittie!

    i think the stephen colbert approach of being a mirror can be rather effective. like: hey! look at how you’re a fascist! isn’t that gross!

    pretend you’re one them, then kick it up just barely a little.

  79. LMYC

    The vitriol with which patriarchs respond to even the mildest suggestion that women might be human beings constantly amazes and depressed me.

    Catherine, I’ve also stopped engaging them. Entirely. I don’t give a crap if they even seem like they have a clue; if they have a real clue, they won’t need me kissing their asses for picking it up.

    It would be nice not to have to disengage from half of the planet’s population in order to stay sane, but hey. As a woman, my choices are to live in a world populated by larger, angrier creatures who deny my humanity, or to live in a world populated by larger, angrier creatures who deny my humanity. In that sort of world, the appropriate and proper response is to howl, and you hold onto whatever passes for sanity any way you can. That’s why there’s a constant stream of self-help books for women telling you how to keep from going out of your mind. That’s what drives bath product companies and why we buy so much smelly aromatic crap to spread around, and it’s why we eat comfort food and why we love chocolate. Hormones? GMAFB. It’s because without these constant little attempts to carve out SOMETHING that isn’t violent and hateful and aimed right at our foreheads, we really would go postal. It’s a testament to the magnitude of the coping required for women to remain sane in this world.

    I wish I had a better solution, because this one does niterfere with my life sometimes, but I do not engage them. At all. Not even casual conversation. I dread knowing what my male coworkers think about anything, with the exception of the fussy but nice gay guy who is our office admin. I wish I didn’t have to step so widely around their turds, but I either inconvenience myself by cutting them out of my life entirely (I’ve made career decisions absed on this) or else I subject myself to a constant mental erosion that will leave me just as hamstrung.

    Those are the “choices” patriarchy gives us. Whoop de fucking do.

  80. LMYC

    Oh, I forgot — there’s a third choice — to “not let it bother me!” To step straight into their turds and smile beatifically and say, “Wow! Just like roses!”

    That’s a response to the other post about “what is femininity?” It’s the ability to step straight into a pile of shit with your bare feet and convince yourself it’s a beribboned sachet of violets and jasmine.

    And people wonder so many more women than men take prozac. What ARE the figures on that anyhow?

  81. mearl

    LMYC: Too right about the misogymorons not listening or blowering a load of illogical gobbledegook back atcha. However, for my own fun, I still think that it helps to post on blogs where one’s feminist viewpoint is unwelcome because

    a) of all the Great Unwashed who might be reading, one or two could absorb the wisdom of a different viewpoint and a 10-watt light bulb just MIGHT go off above their heads

    b)many of the Great Unwashed may disagree with the blowering misogynists but don’t pipe up because they fear to be the only opposing voice and could be encouraged to oppose if someone who doesn’t give a shit what guys think drops an oppositional viewpoint first

    c)although this will likely go over many of the Great Unwashed’s heads, their stupid responses to a logical post will illustrate more about them than about the feminist poster, and

    d) instead of engaging, just post and leave it. This saves you the frustration of seeing what stupid retorts might come up, gives you dignity because the other posters will realise you have made your point and have left, and puts your thoughts out there for the few that will get it. Something is always better than NOTHING.

    I am not saying (insert nasal voice here) “You HAVE to do this otherwise you aren’t doing enough!” I simply advocate it because I get such a bang out of doing it myself and want others to share in my joy. I love watching the fizz that an oppositional viewpoint will arouse on a blog full of troglodites. Tres amusent.

  82. mearl

    p.s. faker’s idea is great too.

  83. LMYC

    Mearl, I just don’t find it tres amusante anymore. I used to tell myself I did, but I don’t no more than a black person watches a KKK rally and considers it comedy. It’s a knife straight into your gut and twisted until your intestines are sliced into ribbons, and I can’t call it “funny” any more than I can call that turd a lavendar sachet.

  84. mearl

    I don’t doubt I will get sick of amusing myself in identity-free forums where the physical individuals are not face-to-face, and I do get pretty enraged pretty often about what goes on in the world. I just like getting in there and fucking with the misogynist male mind, usually because I can come up with things that skewer them on their lame arguments where they are trying to make them. Misogyny in these forums seems pathetic to me simply because on a blog, brains and wit rule and these guys are powerless to do anything to me other than splutter and see how many times they can fit “fuck” and “bitch” into a sentance. I know full well that in instances where it matters, it ain’t funny. I feel you. I guess I am just blindly optimistic about the power of words.

  85. LouisaMayAlcott


    I’m with you every step of the way. Shine on.


  86. jc

    Twisty is my sanity.

  87. johnieB

    I beg your pardon; I realized, after my earlier post, I was channeling a second hand acquaintance with Susan Jeffords. The Remasculinization of America: Gender and the Vietnam War. (1989) before I have completely digested it.

    May I clarify what I left obscure earlier:

    injured male soldiers may feel feminized by their weakness and vulnerability, while females are trespassing on quintessential male turf: combat.

    I am here reflecting what I took to be Jeffords’ description of some characteristics of socially constructed gender stereotypes: “masculine/ feminine”; I had no intention to speak to this topic except to note its impact on PTSD recovery.

    I understand some scholars assert that PTSD is determined solely by the structure of the trauma/ reappropriation process; I have difficulty understanding how the structure which can be derived from real experience is not affected by the particulars of the experience; for example, whether the participants are male or female, and thus the influence of the Patriarchy.

  88. LMYC

    johnieb, I do understand what you were getting at by talking about “feminizing” weakness, definitely, and I don’t take issue with the accuracy of Jeffords’ assessment, nor of its relevence to us now. When men join the army to become men, and it’s demonstrated that the pussies and fags can do it just as well as then can … where does that leave them and their arduously acquired manhood? Maybe *gasp!* they aren’t MEN after all that work!

    That’s at least half of it, when women cross gender lines and call everything that a man has assumed made him a man in the first place. When we achieve as much as they do, we un-man them in their eyes. They then run off to another exclusive domain where they claim that that makes them men, and so it goes until they are driven into the cracks, resentful and muderous over how encroaching femininity has done so. In reality, it’s only their refusal to hang with the women that has driven them into the cracks and crevices of the Fight Club meetings.

  89. mearl

    well said, LMYC.

  90. thebewilderness

    So Mearl, you may recall that I said upthread it was pretty pointless and all? Weeeeell, I just waded in to a C&L thread that I had been on earlier and a number of them were telling a commenter to stfu. She posts as julia. So, after spreading asshattery awards around all I have to do is keep myself from going back.

  91. mearl

    thebewilderness: hell yeah!

  92. johnieB

    LMYC and mearl

    Well said indeed. I think the pursuit of “masculinity” as relief from trauma is an example of denial, and not conducive to healing, which must be reality-based.

    Part of that reality, in my own thinking, is that the war I fought in was evil to its corrupt and stinking heart, a conclusion I reached well before I went to Vietnam. The “establishment”, as we called it then, which gave us Vietnam and racism is the Patriarchy in one of its guises, thus to engage it at any point “ought”, but often does not, lead to a sympathetic ear at other points of the struggle. For example, people who call themselves “pro-life” eschew using military violence to oppress their neo-colonialist victims, and may thus be called “antiwar”, when they might simply be declining to fight the Germans to get at the Japanese, who endured the latest refinement in “FryBaby” techniques. Nor am I urging a sloppy “one size fits all” approach to coalitions where concerted action is demanded; being human, at least in part, means choosing the terms of our participation.

    Finally, thanks for pushing me to write about this; it forces clarity, so imagine what this was like before I started cleaning up!

  93. S.C.U.M.

    Thank you for publishing this article. Remember not so long ago that I gave a blistering attack on military culture in response to the woman that killed her Army husband? I pointed out that women were being raped repeatedly in the current war and that frankly it was a “preemptive strike.” Obviously I was joking. BUT, the response was overwhelmingly (from men- what were they doing here?) that this was NOT happening and there was no evidence to suggest otherwise. Well, here we are. I had heard about these reports six months ago. I see they are FINALLY getting out there. It is the culture of abuse and particularly homophoblic and anti-female conditioning that can “make” a man “forget” his humanity and kill someone he doesn’t know and rape a fellow comrade. Goddess help us all.

  94. Bird

    That’s at least half of it, when women cross gender lines and call everything that a man has assumed made him a man in the first place. When we achieve as much as they do, we un-man them in their eyes.

    Or we somehow try to make ourselves men to fit into “masculine” pursuits. I can’t count the number of times that women at my dojang tell each other to “man up!” or “grow a pair.” I’ve been guilty of similar myself. We try really hard to keep our gender out of our martial arts, but somehow that seems to turn into the women pretending we’re men (putting on masculinity, so to speak) rather than just being people in white pajamas hitting each other.

    Telling ourselves that we need to become men to be strong is another one of those things for which I very much blame the Patriarchy.

    However, I do have one friend who says that a gutsy woman has “mighty big ovaries” in parody of the boy-speak about balls. I love her for that!

  95. Mar Iguana

    Before Louanne Johnson became a teacher they made a movie about starring Michelle Pfeiffer, “Dangerous Minds,” she was a U.S. Navy journalist and Marine Corps officer. She busted it to be the best marine she could be, hoping that would finally stop the harrassment and gain for her the respect of her fellow marines. The better she did, the worse it got.

    Puzzled, she went to her CO who told her of course she would be resented. The marines want “A Few Good MEN.” If a woman can do everything a man can do in the marines, sometimes better, where does that leave the boys?

    The movie “Jarhead,” written by a Gulf War veteran, is an eye-opener in a couple ways I don’t think the makers intended. The troops talk about hating being in the Middle East because they were denied the perk of exploitable, prostituted women the boys enjoyed in Vietnam, Korea, WWII, etc., and no R&R to nearby places where they could get drunk and fuck disadvantaged women to their heart’s content.

    Yet, the thing that flipped them out the most was the thought of the women they left behind being unfaithful to them, earning them a spot on “The Wall Of Shame.” Not too hypocritical or anything.

  96. Heather

    Y’all have to go over and check out the crap that some men are spewing about women in combat roles and disrupting team dynamics (also started because of the article)…


    Have fun with that little microcosm of mess

    btw… I’m the only woman on there, and I am so incredibly frustrated that it feels like I’m an angry little monkey just trying to verbalize horrified grunts on my keyboard.

  97. thebewilderness

    I dipped my toe in your link for a moment but the stupid, it burned. The combination of ignorance and entitlement makes for argument that inevitably spirals downward until it reaches the men can’t help it, they’re just naturally ignorant and entitled, pit of despair.
    The Mike character and his commission reminded me of just how self absorbed it is possible for a human creature to be.

  98. Miller

    I know this is days late but I had to respond.
    LMYC wrote:

    Mearl, I just don’t find it tres amusante anymore. I used to tell myself I did, but I don’t no more than a black person watches a KKK rally and considers it comedy. It’s a knife straight into your gut and twisted until your intestines are sliced into ribbons.

    Me, too. I wish I was just surrounded by standard dehumanization but it’s now violent hate–rape, torture, kill–is constantly attacking me (I try and avoid all hate media, but it’s everywhere.). And the rest of society not only views it as entertainment but will defend it ferociously. I can’t even imagine during the Jim Crow era that the torturing and killing of blacks was considered sacred entertainment to the rest of the nation or even the Deep South. Even “feminist” blogs are defending that blasted Vanity Fair cover explicitly dehumanizing a naked woman as Tony Soprano grips a chunk of her flesh.
    God help us.

  99. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    I hear you, Miller. Just yesterday I was channel surfing, looking for something to fill my time while working out in my livingroom.

    One station had this “be the next famous model” show (ANOTHER modeling show?). A barely post-teenaged woman/girl was made up to look like a murder victim (bullet hole near her breast, blood everywhere) and slumped up against something. The photographer was clicking away with his camera, telling her how beautiful she was.

  100. Allison

    My 6-year old son was playing with dress up clothes at school this week. He put on a princess outfit and promptly got punched by a 7-year old boy. Apparently you only have to look like a girl for five seconds before it’s okay for someone to assault you. I can’t tell you how frustrating it is trying to bring up good boys. The world sure needs them.

  101. LMYC

    Mar Iguana, from their point of view, there IS no hypocrisy. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating, plus I like to repeat myself anyhow:

    Men view the world as a giant video game. They each get their little stash of pussy gamepieces, and the point of the game is to keep their own gamepieces safe while violating as many other guys’ gamepieces as possible. It’s fun! Like Sports! Protect your goal/hole and cram your ball into the other guys’ as much as you can!

    This makes violating as many pussies while safeguarding your own totally consistent in their worldview. No hypocrisy at all.

    The problem, of course, is that there are human minds attached to the gamepieces. Well, depending on how you define human. This is why the one reality that the patriarchy and everyone who participates in it denies is that women are humans. This is why, to them, the greatest injustice is that pussies come with brains attached. That’s, like, SO NOT FAIR!

  102. mearl

    In light of LMYC’s and hedonistic’s and Allison’s comments, what I intended to say was that I comprehend that people’s attitudes will transform into reality when they are not contained within the safe space of discussion blogs. That is not what’s amusing to me. However, in the anonymous space where assholes are spewing forth their misogyny and can’t do anything to you for voicing your opinion, it can be helpful to voice your opinion, in the hopes that someone out of millions of readers will be enlightened. If a typed slew of hatred comes your way, it’s upsetting, yes, and it is a part of the larger reality of patriarchy, but is it better to stay silent about things when you have the opporunity to voice your opinion and not get killed? Maybe I find this amusing because it’s like a cat taunting a bunch of caged dogs when it can get away with it. Maybe my amusement exists to alleviate my frustration and sadness at the amount of hatred out there.

    I vehemently point out instances of misogyny and do what I can for feminism wherever I can. I don’t give a shit if I lose friends, lose my job, etc. I’ve broken up unfair fights between three guys and one guy, stopped strangers from beating on their girlfriends in the back lane as I passed by, stood up to guys who were trying to intimidate me at the bar or in deserted backlanes, told off my male teachers and professors, hit my abusive dad back when he hit me, dumped boyfriends for daring even to tell me to “fuck off,” punched a guy I know in the face for calling me a bitch and implying that I had to do what he said and thinking it was funny, stared down guys on the bus who were ogling me, told other guys on the bus to close their goddamned legs and stop taking up more than half of the seat, told off my friends’ and sister’s boyfriends when my friends and sister had no willpower to do it, and the list goes on. I know lots of blamers here do a lot of this sort of stuff too and I know lots of blamers who will know the instances in which they have to keep quiet for reasons of survival. But I am all about the vocal opposition where it is possible, because if you stand there and say nothing in the face of misogyny, it will just help to convince the misogynists that they are right, and they will end up perpetrating violence on some other woman who doens’t have the option of separatism and transcendence like some of us do. I can’t just throw up my hands and say the fight is useless, because it isn’t.

  103. LMYC

    Mearl, you’re bringing up god points, here. I’m thinking about the times when I’ve stood up in public, and it’s never ended well for me. I’m disabled, so the ONLY survival skill I have in the physical world is avoidance and the very, very, VERY careful selection of my fights. It involves swallowing a lot of bile, because given that I am simply not capable of throwing a good punch, I end up having little choice. I hate it. My body is my enemy, and I do feel very strongly that its genetically predetermined weakness (inherited from my father, and how’s that for irony?) makes me unable to be the feminist I want to be.

    I know you’re not saying that, and I see you as nothing but an ally, and a thoughtful one who is challenging me as well. But all of the instances of direct action you spoke to are things I desperately WANT to do and can’t, because I will get my bones broken. No amount of model mugging or aikido will cure it. I avoid physical confrontation not becayuse I have low girly self-esteem, but because my ligaments and heart valves are inherently fucked up, and partly, that inability to translate my anger into a well-deserved punch in the face is what burns me from the inside like acid. Maybe it’s a little like the dreaded Short Man’s Disease that makes short or qweak men overreact to slights and offenses as well.

    Or maybe it’s what my roommate once said to me: “The abstract is as real to you as the real world.” I see only the dog and not the cage. I see the dog’s existence, and I know (because of my body’s total fucking uselessness as anything but a primo grad-A jerkoff toy to men) that it’s the random existence of the cage that keeps me from being dog food.

    I don’t know. I think it’s all bound up together. What I do know is that YOU are most definitely not saying it, but I think the topics you are bringing up are throwing it into high relief for me.

    I hate a world where might makes right, because I have none. And yes, I know it, and most men know it, and they know damned well that if I get into a fight with them over the restaurant dinnertable, they only need stand up and walk toward me for me to be fucking forced to back down, unless I want to employ a deadly force to defend myself, and I’ve wanted to. Oh, how I’ve wanted to.

    I hate my body. This is another one of those “What is femininity?” moments. Femininity is what makes my own body a traitor in my bloody-fingered struggle to claw up the cliff, at the top of which lies my own humanity. Should I not hate it? Is it a shame that I hate it? Will some mystic feminist spiritual crouching over a hand mirror make me not hate it anymore?

    Who the fuck knows? What I do know is that good music, good food, and good wine are the only pleasures it brings to ME ME ME as opposed to jerkoff material for men, and all of those pleasures are best shared with other women because they don’t highlight the pain of my physical vulnerability or how delightful most men find that. And they don’t involve reminding me of the punches I cannot throw.

  104. LMYC

    Hm, still thinking about this. I think I don’t find it funy to even NOTICE them — what I love about the online feminsit spaces is that trolsl can be made to VANISH. Is it censorship? Who the fuck cares? It’s not like, when Ginmar banns or deletes trolls from her LJ, I and the rest of her readership will go without the Incredibly Valuable and Important Asshole Point of View. It’s not like we’ll fail to be reminded at all parts of the day that men hate us. It’s not like we’ll forget.

    The power of the online interaction space isn’t that I can point and laugh at the caged dogs. It’s that, with one twitch of a feminist finger, the caged dogs are erased. It’s glorious. It’s one of the major reasons why I love Ginmar’s blog, actually. (And here as well.) The caged dogs vanish. I don’t even HAVE to pretend to laugh at them. I can do something even better: I can ignore them. Oh, how good that feels …

  105. Bird

    Wow, LMYC, I had never thought about how that would feel. I’m into martial arts and I run long distances, so I feel like I could fight back or run away if I had to (and I know this doesn’t work in every circumstance and I might still not be strong/fast enough, but it helps).

    I suppose I’ve always been aware that women with disabilities are more vulnerable, but I’d never really thought about how it would feel inside to be someone who didn’t have the ability to fight.

    Damn, woman, you made me all teary eyed.

  106. Bird

    I should note that it’s a “I’m pissed off and sad that the world works that way” sort of teary, not an “I feel sorry for you” teary.

    I really, really don’t like people pitying me (and I doubt that you do either), and I just realized that my comment might be read that way if I didn’t clarify.

  107. LMYC

    Bird, I understand, I took it as a sympathy thing, in the root sense of the word: what it would be like if it were me.

  108. roamaround

    LMYC, I found your comment moving too. I doubt I could take most men, so I often feel that helpless rage, wishing I could punch them. Sometimes it’s not even about fighting back physically. Public opinion usually damns uppity women and sympathizes with the men they challenge. Money and clout mostly advantage men too. Their might comes in many forms, and all of us are pretty much screaming into the wind when we try to fight it.

    I’d like to agree with mearl that the fight is not useless, but without solidarity and purpose it could very likely be a suicide mission.

  109. mearl

    LMYC, those are very thought-provoking comments, especially for someone like me who is almost 6 feet tall and can intimidate guys just by standing in front of them. I see where you’re coming from, even if I may never have any idea what it’s like. I have really become aware, in the past 10 years or so, what it might be like to be harrassed more, hit on more, intimidated more, threatened more, if I hadn’t been born this tall. As an ally to other women, I back up my verbal fight with actual physical presence in the world beyond the blog. I stand up for my shorter friends, and always have, since I was a tomboy in elementary school who got the nickname, “The Nutcracker” because I was pissed at the boys for chasing girls at recess and began kicking them all in the chiclets to put a stop to it. I’d also like to add that I believe anyone is capable of fighting for feminism in whichever form they are best at. I can understand the survival choices that loads of women make every day.

    In a nod to the reality of physical dispartiy between males and females, I also favour my Plan B: the sawed-off pool cue. After education and consciousness-raising, that’s my fave.

  110. Bird

    Mearl, I used to live in a basement apartment, and I kept a tire iron under the mattress and a baseball bat by the front door. I fully agree that even a strong woman needs a little help when she’s facing an attacker who may outweigh her by 100 pounds or more.

    Funny, though, this feeling of being able to really defend myself is something that has only come about in the last year or so. In fact, in the beginning of my current relationship, I reacted with fear if my partner made any sudden movements in my direction, despite the fact that he would never hit me (unless we’re sparring at TKD, but that’s another story).

    I was in a very physically abusive relationship with an alcoholic tattoo artist who thought that punching me around when he was drunk and angry was acceptable behaviour. I can’t believe that I put up with it as long as I did, but there you are.

    After we finally split, I decided to regain my own power and independence. I went back to school and finished my degree, and I went out and got the job I always wanted. I started living life on my own terms, but I still had a lot of physical fear. I gained a lot of weight and smoked pretty heavily, too.

    But then last year I quit smoking and took up martial arts (taekwondo and hapkido). I also started running. Being able to do those two things—defend myself and run from danger—has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in terms of making me feel like I can stand on my own two feet and keep myself safe. I don’t rely on my partner to protect my safety any more (and despite knowing that he’s a good guy, there is an element of feeling safe from him that comes from the experience of being an abused partner).

    I like it that my instructor makes all of us spar with each other. That means that I have to get comfortable with going up against the men in my class, even the ones who are six inches taller, outweigh me by 100 pounds, or have more experience than me. I have to be comfortable defending against—and attacking—someone larger than me. He’s also quite clear about the necessity to do anything that’s required in a self-defense situation, including gouging eyes, striking the throat, and anything that has to be done to stay alive. And he makes that really clear too. This really is life and death.

    Last night I startled a burglar trying to break into my father’s house when I stopped by to pick up some mail. If I had arrived five minutes later, I would have walked in and startled him inside the house. Last year, that would have had me shaking and nearly in tears. This year, I still feel thankful that I wasn’t put in that situation, but I’m damn glad I know what to do if I have to.

    I guess I’ve sort of rambled on here. What I mean is that even a tall woman like me who isn’t weak, ill, or disabled can still feel a lot of fear when it comes to standing up for herself physically. I hate that we need to be able to fight off a man. I don’t want to feel unsafe walking down an alley in broad daylight. It pisses me off that I have to know how to fight and run to feel some sort of security. It makes me furious that LMYC has to feel the way she does because she isn’t able to physically fight back.

    But I can tell you that if I have a daughter, I’m taking her to the dojang as soon as I can—we have classes for four-year-old kids, and I don’t think that’s too soon.

  111. Pony

    Most women are not physically intimidating, not able to withstand the rigours of a martial arts program, not able to be long distance runners, don’t have the physical to back up the attitude. Even if they are not disabled. Even if they wanted to counter violence with violence. Femininity is backing down, going around, giving in to bad to avoid worse. Femininity is a lifetime of disassociation.

  112. johnieB

    I’d also like to add that I believe anyone is capable of fighting for feminism in whichever form they are best at.

    I agree, Mearl,

    but there is a special release which comes from sudden physical violence against one’s present tormentor which is not available to some. Rage is a physical state, after all. Age, injuries, and illness limit my ability to defend myself in every instance; still, as you point out, preparation and training with a short sturdy stick may make up some of these deficits.

  113. mearl

    After reading the latest comments I was thinking about this thread and came up with this: attitude can go a long way, as well. I’d say rage is a mental state that can be backed up if you have the physical capability. Rage is what women, despite being physically smaller than men, carry around with us all our lives.

    It is SO true that in many cases if you live up to your convictions, bigger, scarier men will surprise you with their deference when they realise that it’s harder than they thought to intimidate you, despite their physical size. I’ve had huge guys apologise to me for scaring me when they pulled up next to me on a dark street in a truck at midnight where I was walking home alone and started asking me if I wanted to go to a party. I said no, they drove away and I passed them again a minute later where they were getting out of their truck at the party, which turned out to be down my back lane. They called out and said they realised how scary they could have been to me and wanted to tell me they were sorry if they had caused me fear. I’ve had huge badass-looking guys, far huger than me, apologise to me for swearing in front of little kids on public transit, and all it took was one look or one comment from me. Some guy called out to me on the street at 2 am when I was walking alone and said, “Aren’t you scared walking by yourself at this time of night?” I turned to the guy, thinking this was a challenge, and calmly told him I had pepper spray so I wasn’t worried. He put up his hands in a surrender and laughed, and gave me respect. When gang members in my area were trying to start a fight with my guy friends, I sent the guys away in their car and told them I would be fine but to leave because the gang members are just looking to beat the shit out of them. I walked up to the gang member with a baseball bat and told him that we don’t want any fighting, but if he wants to start a fight, he can fight me. The guy swung the baseball bat with full force at my head and I stood there. He stopped it an inch before it got to my head, and I only flinched a bit, because I was certain he was just testing me. When I didn’t move, he respected my attitude and they left without further issue. I obviously don’t recommend doing shit like this all the time, and I was young and reckless, but if you’ve got good instincts and don’t treat people like stereotypes, it’s astonishing the understanding that you can get. I get scared sometimes of smaller women who are clearly confident firebrands with the verbal punch to back up their convictions. These women seem so much larger than they are. In the physical world, size matters, but in our society, it’s amazing what you can accomplish with words and beliefs. You just have to trust your instincts when reading the situation.

  114. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    What Mearl says is true: I read someplace that muggers say they won’t attack mean-looking elderly women with umbrellas for this very reason. I started carrying an old fashioned pointy-ended umbrella after I learned this.

    If you have any doubts as to the power of fiestiness, check out the photo log of a recent cat fight chez moi:


    Sorry but my poor grasp of HTML confuses and upsets me.

  115. Mar Iguana

    Mar Iguana, from their point of view, there IS no hypocrisy.” LMYC

    You’re absolutely right. I forgot about The Game there for a bit.

  116. Pony

    Animals have a different hierarchy from humans.

  117. Pony

    Mearl I’ve been there and I imagine most women have, at one time. But that feisty time which can command respect is a fairly small part of “women”, limited by stage of life, age, status, health, strength, leaving out girl children, women hampered by age, disabled women, pregnant women, women with small children around them, women of any size of certgain races, women who don’t command the patriarchy’s respect because of where they live or who they might be connected to, women who are outside the window of fuckable, women who look like no-one would care about them. There’s a tiny window in a woman’s life where she can manage what you say, with confidence or bravado.

  118. roamaround

    Mearl, you are surely right about women being able to command respect from thugs and gangbangers. I see it every day as an urban high school teacher. I can’t recommend confrontation though, since I’ve seen some comrades get life-long disabilities from attacks on the job. All it takes is one angry and/or high kid with a box cutter in his pocket and something to prove. Instincts are important, but it takes experience to be able to read those kinds of situations. I say be very, very careful.

    You seem to be giving the guys you mention a lot of credit for inner decency, as if we just have to win them over with our toughness. I don’t think that really works, they still hate us, and it seems not only dangerous but a lot of effort.

    There has to be a more effective way to stand up for feminism.

  119. mearl

    roamaround: very true. As I said, I am not advocating this stance for all women. It all depends on context. I may live in the murder capital of Canada, but since it’s a relatively small city (to the bigger ones where there is more anonymity and organised crime) and I know the workings of its inhabitants well, I only have the picture of things as I have experienced it. So far, possibly due to luck or my size or the fact that Canadians are polite as hell, I’ve discovered that some thugs and many an asshole are not all the big macho men they crack themselves up to be. However, if I lived in NYC or Chicago, you can bet your ass I wouldn’t be taking risks like I have taken.

    I do, however, fully advocate the power of standing up for what you believe in where you can do it, especially in forums where there is little chance of harm coming to you.

  120. mearl

    Although I have to admit, I often fantasize about a revolution where women work on not only their physical presence and capabilities but also (and especially) their attitudes, and collectively stand up to male violence so that men quit with this concept of women as being little and weenie and helpless. In the fantasy, of course, men respect this and start behaving. In reality, they’d all feel threatened and jack up their output of pornography and abuse, and create more men’s only clubs to escape the horrible assault on their manly identities.

    It’s true, though, that I cringe when I hear my 100-pound friends going on about how “tiny” and “delicate” they are, hoping to win the favour of some dumb guy. My biggest eye-opener was when I was working at the city’s main art gallery as a bartender, which entailed setting up hundreds of chairs and tables and taking them all down daily. There was a harem of girls who worked there, since it’s the service industry, and not many guys. I was the tallest and strongest girl, so when no guys were working, the hauling of chairs with the dollies and jacks and rolling of big round tables always fell to me. A friend of mine who also worked there would always get out of the table-rolling, claiming that she couldn’t do it and the tables would fall over on her because she had noodle arms. She was fairly short (maybe 5″3), built like a thin noodle, and weighed about 110 pounds. I accepted this explanation of why she never did the heavy lifting, along with her constant reference to herself as weak and girly (to the admiration of every guy in the building) until a new girl started working with us. She was 4″11. She had a black belt in karate because her dad had taught at a dojo in Toronto and had instructed her. She was a total firebrand, had travelled Europe by herself and survived a lot of emotional trauma in her youth. This girl would do all the physical work cheerfully and without once complaining. She put the first girl completely to shame. We became good friends and one night, while drinking at a pub, we had an arm wrestle. That kid had wicked biceps, and gave me one of the best runs for my money that I’d ever had, and I usually arm-wrestle guys because I can sometimes win. I won this time, but not by much, and I am a full head taller than her. After seeing this tiny, tiny girl with her bold personality and physical capability, I knew that a lot of why women get pegged as wimps is due to attitude and the way they carry themselves. I believe that women learn this attitude and this carriage and work on it throughout their lives to please men and to appear “feminine.” I guess this goes back to my feelings on the “feminine” thread, which I keep reading as the days go by. I think femininity is, in a large part, learned. The more we feed into the idea of femininity and erase the reality that women are not BORN simpering, hobbled, passive, crying, helpless humans, the more we weaken ourselves as a gender and as an ideological concept in men’s thinking.

  121. Mar Iguana

    I may not know karate but I know crazy. Thanks to my tough-as-nails dad who taught me how to throw a rock, carry a hammer handle up my sleeve, land a right hook from outta nowhere square on the button, plus a martial arts thing or two he’d learned in Japan when he was in the Navy, before I was in kindergarten. Until the third grade, I grew up in a tough neighborhood, south of the tracks; the only girl in a block where most of the boys were institutionalized one way or another, as they got older.

    My dad told me that since I was a little girl I didn’t have to worry about fighting fair, that I was never to start a fight but he expected me to stand, using whatever was at hand to hurt them fast, hurt them bad then run like hell. Word got around that the Iguana girl was crazy and it was best to leave her and her pals alone. Plus, none of them wanted to have to admit a girl just beat the crap out of ’em.

    It also helped to have a mom who would defend you after you’d laid some little punk in the schoolyard shade or beat them with a jumprope and raise holy hell before she’d let them suspend you instead of the little asshole who had obviously asked for it. That early training in the formative years has made me fearless ever since.

    I’ll be 60 years old in June and I’ve never been hit or manhandled by an asshole in my life, mostly because of attitude backed up by belief, as mearl points out. I consciously carry myself with an unhurried, calm and erect bearing that communicates “INvulnerable” to assholes: “Yes, this IS my sidewalk and I step aside or scurry for no man.”

    Bullyboys, like any good predator, don’t want to risk getting hurt themselves even a little bit. Oh, they’ll fluff themselves up and even take a step or two in my direction but change their minds when I mirror their posture and step toward them, giving them a look right in their eyeballs that shouts, “Do you want to die today?” Confuses them because they don’t get the fear-fix they need to feed off of like a vampire.

    They can sense I’d kill ’em in a heartbeat if necessary. I am armed and dangerous. So far, I’ve never had to pull out the switchblade (fuck legal) I sometimes carry, the buck knife I keep in my purse (fuck legal), the machete I stash under my car seat (fuck legal) or the dagger (fuck legal) I sleep with under my pillow* (you know how us Mexicans are, we like to cut). I WILL go straight for the jugular if necessary.

    I do not advise any woman to act like me, however, unless they were lucky enough to be taught when they were as young as I was not to fear bullyboys. Fearlessness cannot be faked. You can’t truly know something unless you’ve done it.

    *Caution: Remember to remove when appropriate or someone you have invited into your bed could accidentally give themselves a nasty slice on the inner thigh, frighteningly close to the precious jewels. Ooops. There went that stiffy.

  122. roamaround

    I really wish I could agree, mearl, because I like your fantasy scenario too. I definitely do agree that strong, powerful and fearless womanhood is a healthy ideal, and I try to live that just as my mother and grandmother did before me.

    The problem I have is with where you seem to be putting the cart and the horse. Women get pegged as wimps because that’s the required status of the subordinate sex, not because of the way we act. I’m pretty sure you agree since you rightly pointed out that any attempt by women to upset the cart would cause a backlash. (It already has caused a backlash, as Susan Faludi pointed out in 1991.)

    In fact, the “weak and helpless woman” excuse for oppressing us is quite culture-specific. In many places where women are brutally oppressed, they are also the work horses of society and do almost all the physical labor. They still get no respect.

    I don’t mean to sound defeatist or contrarian. I think I’m just tired of trying so hard all the time. They invent a reason to keep us down no matter what we do. It’s not our fault.

    But should we fight back where we can? Absolutely agreed.

  123. mearl

    Hmmm…true about the scenario in other countries where women are workhorses. What I was thinking about was that because women are brainwashed from birth to exaggerate their physical smallness, mental and financial dependence, and “passive” nature while men are brainwashed from birth to exaggerate their physical bigness, foster mental and financial independence and “agressive” nature, it has a lot to do with the result we look at now in culture. The origins of these beliefs can’t really be pinpointed, but I believe in change. If I were to trace my own realisation of this, it would likely be to my reading of The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolf. Also, although I’m not terribly familiar with it, I have noticed a different imagery in the culture of black females. They’re seen as strong, tough, capable, etc. where white women are seen as “angels in the house.” I have my suspicions that there is an inheritance of experience going on there, because white women in this culture have the overlay of British Victorian values on them, while black women have their history of severe struggle, where their grandmothers and great-grandmothers were forced to be strong in attitude and body in order to survive. Just a thought.

  124. LMYC

    They invent a reason to keep us down no matter what we do. It’s not our fault.

    Hear hear. I’m sick of “If you were just a little more/less X or Y, you could ABC … ”

    You know what, Mr. Sir? How about if you weren’t a FUCKWAD, I could ABC?

    It’s them. It’s THEM. THEY are the fucked-up ones, know what?

  125. LMYC

    No British Victorian here — east coast wop. We’re not the angels of the house, we’re the field marshals. More like, “Get the hell out of my kitchen if you’re going to smoke that thing.” That’s why on the stoops of all the old row houses in the city, you would see men sitting and smoking. If they tried to light up a stogie in the house, their wives would throw them out.

  126. al

    Mearl: Ace story! I wanna meet that girl now. Thanks for sharing. :-)

  127. mearl

    All points taken. I still have an unwavering plan, after hedonistic’s comment, to be a mean-looking old lady with a pointy umbrella.

  128. Pony

    Thanks for the misogynistic stereotype.

    “mean looking old lady with a pointy umbrella.”

  129. ginmar

    Men are afraid of women. I think it’s because they know they’re doing shit they deserve to get nailed for, and they fear that somebody will do just that. And I’ve learned to exploit that. I’m five feet three, and when I want to intimidate a guy who’s bigger than me I invade his personal space, lower my voice, glare him right in the eye, and ask him just what his problem is. It works even better when you speak slowly, too, and stay very calm. Then I tell them I’m a vet. Guys who haven’t been through that are very intimidated by that. They’re afraid of women, and I like making sure they stay that way.

  130. Pony

    I still say you can only pull that off because they think it’s sexy. Guess how they’d come back at a dyke. For them to tolerate that, play along with it, you have to be a possibility for them.

  131. Inverarity

    Pony is right, I’m afraid. A small woman getting in your face and being “intimidating” only works insofar as a man regards small women as sexy/cute. Most men, if they have any deferential/”chivalrous” impulses, will blink and back down, usually. The alternative would be to respond the way he would to a small man getting in his face in a threatening manner. You aren’t making guys back down because they’re secretly afraid of women or because they think you’re scary-dangerous, you’re making them back down because “guys don’t hit girls.”

  132. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    Wow Pony, it’s my fondest wish to be the “mean old lady with the pointy umbrella (AND the thirty cats)” someday. These women are my heroines because they don’t take any shit!

    Besides, I LIKE cats.

  133. Scratchy888

    Self defence need not be so difficult, and you do no need to learn deadly force in order to stop somebody for a moment (probably as long as you need to run away or change the situation enought that you are no longer in danger). A very useful tool is a palmthrust, which can be used with either a small amount of force (thrusting from the elbow in an upwards arc towards the nose) or with a maximum amount of force (theroetically lethal). It looks like this:


  134. roamaround

    I have to say, though it is so not me, what about a gun?

  135. Pony

    Interesting to note, this thread started out talking about women’s experiences in a war. It’s come home, but it’s still talking about a war.

  136. Mar Iguana

    “It’s come home, but it’s still talking about a war.” Pony

    Yep. I know I’ve been a stationery moving target for around 40 years now.

  137. LouisaMayAlcott

    Right on, Pony.

    And it’s always the same war. The neverending war of males against females.

    Sometimes the war takes the form of males fighting other males over the spoils. Those fights get publicized and put into history books.

  138. ginmar

    The thing is, for me, I know I handle any number of these guys. I’ve had the training and I’ve done worse. They know it, too. I see the same thing in a lot of other women who are combat vets as well. You have a lot of confidence before fighting with the VA takes it and your energy away. It’s the confidence of surviving battle and showing the guys on both sides what you can do, and nothing in the civilian world can match it. I’ve literally put guys on the floor who are a foot taller than me. I think it shows. I also think that that increased self-confidence—which my shrink persists in labelling unhealthy, although she doesn’t know if she’d do so in a male patient—–and that experience of subduing men is why the consrvobots so don’t want women in combat. And by subduing men, here, by the way, I’m talking about my fellow soldiers and American men back home. The real reason the Reich doesn’t want women in combat is because once you’ve trusted her with a rifle and she’s learned to trust herself with it, she’s going to ask the next logical question: “So how come you don’t trust me with my own damned ovaries, then?” Plus fighting for your country incurs a debt on the part of the country, and when you add that to what America owes its women, it’s an unimagineable sum.

    War is a crucible, especially one like this. It’s not so much the enemy that you fear; it’s disillusionment from your own side, as they do things that violate standards and ideals you hold dear. I expect the enemy to be, well, my enemy. I shouldn’t have to defend against that from my fellow soldiers.

  139. Bird

    I may live in the murder capital of Canada, but since it’s a relatively small city (to the bigger ones where there is more anonymity and organised crime) and I know the workings of its inhabitants well, I only have the picture of things as I have experienced it. So far, possibly due to luck or my size or the fact that Canadians are polite as hell, I’ve discovered that some thugs and many an asshole are not all the big macho men they crack themselves up to be.

    Mearl, I’m wondering where you live because it sounds a lot like where I live. I’m in a Canadian city of about a million people, and I very rarely feel seriously threatened in most places in town. The only exception is in the south side area where I work (home of last year’s hockey riots). There are too many drunk assholes around here for my comfort, even in the daytime.

    The thing I find troubling here is the rate of domestic violence and spouse/partner killings. There have been multiple cases recently of pregnant women being killed by their husbands/boyfriends around here. As always, we are far more at risk from the men we choose to be close to than the ones we pass on the street.

    That’s the reason I learned martial arts and learned to run. It’s not about strangers, folks. I’m way more worried that some man in my life (even the one I love and trust the most) will someday try to take a piece out of me. And you’re right, Pony. There are a lot of women out there who can’t do this. But there are a lot of them who can and don’t.

    I take martial arts with women in their 40s, 50s and older; we have grandmothers at the dojang as well as girls in their teens, women with small children, and girl children (some as young as 4). As for running, I know runners in their 70s. There are grandmotherly women lifting weights at my gym. It’s not that most women can’t be strong, it’s that they aren’t doing what they need to get there. Yes, there’s a patriarchy-induced idea in most women that they can’t do this stuff, but that’s different from being incapable.

    I don’t buy the idea that most women aren’t able to withstand the rigors of martial arts, running, or other sports/athletics. Millions of women take ballet, which is as demanding as martial arts (I’ve done both). They wear themselves out jazzercizing, doing tae bo, strippercizing, or doing all these other things that really do place high demands on the body. It’s the idea of what’s a “girl” activity that holds us back, not our capacity for strenuous activity.

    I’m not saying every girl needs a black belt, or that every grandma should run marathons, but most women can learn basic self-defense and be in good enough shape to run at least a couple of blocks.

    Some women can’t, and I don’t fault them for it. But most women don’t. Yes, they’re brainwashed into thinking they’re weak. But I will not accept “can’t” when what’s really happening is “won’t.”

  140. Pony

    The women and girls you speak of are exercising, not defending themselves against surprise attacks, by strangers, or more likely husbands or boyfriends (first down goes to trust as you’ve mentioned). And they are a minority of the whole of the population of women. The majority of your exercising dojang/running/climbing women are 18-40, and a lot of other things like, not pregnant, not with small children clinging to their legs, not with arthritis, or osteroporosis, not with disability or failing eyesight or eight years old. The majority of the population of women can’t do those things, when needed, at some time in their lives, or possibly ever. Really. I am not talking about strength which YOU now have but won’t always. And I am appalled at your continuing to put the responsibility for rape and violence on women rather than MEN.

    Just for an exercise (heh) change all those passive sentences, everytime you see them, from “a woman was raped” to “the men raped the woman.”

  141. Bird

    And for anyone who thinks I believe that all this will make me, or any woman, 100% safe, I don’t. But I think that it’s better to have a fighting chance.

  142. thebewilderness

    I think you make an important point: I also think that that increased self-confidence—which my shrink persists in labelling unhealthy, although she doesn’t know if she’d do so in a male patient—–and that experience of subduing men is why the consrvobots so don’t want women in combat. And by subduing men, here, by the way, I’m talking about my fellow soldiers and American men back home.

    As the token small woman instructor in “Unarmed Defensive Tactics” at a law enforcement academy, it was my role to debunk one of the many myths the patriarchy had instilled in these young people.
    Unarmed defensive tactics is a euphemism for physical force.
    It changed their life, both the men and the women. I know because they couldn’t stop telling me how differently they felt about themselves and each other. I know because I heard them discussing shop talk, both before and after they had physical force training. The difference was remarkable. How long it will last is another question.
    I think the conservobots and patriarchs are terrified that men and women might discover that women are human and are entitled to be treated as such. Women firefighters, police officers, and combat troops take an horrendous amount of abuse from those representatives of the patriarchy who hope to prove that women are not entitled to be treated as human.

  143. ginmar

    Female soldiers are caught between the demands of the job and the demands of their fellow soldiers, who often are uncomfortable with the notion of females as soldiers and not ‘girls, hos, mothers, and wives’. Some of them are simply incapable of seeing women as anything but attachments to men. Many of them, of course, have a rude awakening, and I think you can and should judge a guy by how he takes the idea that women can do his job—maybe better than he can. If he can’t handle the concept of women in combat—-the classic ‘but men want to protect women!’ argument which is just so much bullshit—-then he won’t be able to handle anything else that isn’t black and white, male and female, pink and blue. And by the way, how much do I hate that argument? When they want to protect me, how come they never stop and consider that there are women back home who need way more protection than my heavily-armed, cocky, expert-shooting ass. It’s kind of like the fight over Anna Nicole Smith’s baby. When do guys actually fight for a kid, unless they have an ulterior motive? SAme thing with anything that benefits women. They only do that when they have an ulterior motive.

  144. Scratchy888

    With regard to Ginmar’s post about heightened self esteem, I think that she raises an important issue about how women’s identity is perceived. In my own life, I have walked out on a number of situations which were not up to my standards (jobs in which I was dehumanised, or treated like a much different person that I really am) family relationships which were dehumanising, etc. In all of these instances, my high self esteem has led me to reject these situations offered to me or imposed on me. In all of these cases, people have assumed that it was low self esteem (or some nebulous negativity on my part) which caused my early departures. It seems to me that what is unthinkable in a woman is her having high enough self esteem to reject situations which do not meet her standards.

    To walk out of an abusive situation is considered to be an expression of feminine dysfunctionality.

  145. Pony

    Bird everyone can exercise. I’m the last person to state otherwise. But to the intensity you were referring to over the age of a woman, no. You are representative of a small minority of the whole body of women, over the period of a woman’s lifetime.

    I’ve said this about four times now in various ways. My posts seem to be in the spam cue.

    But we aren’t having the same discussion.

  146. mearl

    I love what I learn on this blog. And Pony, just to clarify, I really DO want to be a mean-looking old lady with a pointy umbrella. I don’t think that’s derogatory at all. I think it’s cool. Something to aspire to. Then I can yell at punk-ass kids, “Let’s go, kid! I’ll fuck you up RIGHT NOW!” and watch the expressions on their faces.

    Bird, I live in Winnipeg. I might as well admit it, since I put it on the femininity thread. I think you mentioned you live in Alberta somewhere. I definitely see the similarities between my city and the other prarie cities. BC’s a bit different (way more crackheads), and Ontario too (way more homeless people). I haven’t been to Quebec, or the East Coast, so I couldn’t say if I felt safe wandering around in their cities at night.

    I’ve also been in the military, as has my sister (not in a terribly involved way, however). I have a good friend who has been knocked out and gang-raped by military guys, another friend who was 14 when she was raped at camp by an officer when we were out in BC, and I’ve been to mess parties where I was hammered and my guy “friends” who were also members of the mess were trying to take advantage of me one by one in dark rooms, doing up their pants or leaving off and pretending they were helping me when my friends came in. Most of the guys I knew were actually decent, but that could be because I was in the band, which is always full of nerds like myself. And I’ve got plenty of stories of rape and assault on my friends that have absolutely nothing to do with the military. Friends who have been drugged and raped at staff parties for a restaurant, friends who have been raped by two guys at a house party, friends who have been assaulted at bars, chased in the street, followed, stalked, etc. I haven’t been around military people for so long, I don’t know what it’s like anymore.

  147. mearl

    I can say for sure, though, that learning self-confidence and rifles and drill and how to take and give orders in a fairly androgynous setting where expectations of males and females were equal really did a lot for my self-confidence. If it weren’t for that pesky business of war and killing, I would recommend the training to any female who could do it.

  148. ginmar

    You know, mearl, a lot of people join the military with the perfectly logical expectation—before Bush—-that they were never going to fire a rifle except on a firing range. It is indeed possible to do so today and join for reasons of support, travel, and even—-dare I say it—humanitarian reasons. The military gave me a lot of confidence and ironically, made me better able to fight sexism.

  149. Mar Iguana

    I don’t support Clinton’s candidacy for Commander In Chief of The Magalopatriarchy of the United States, but this video made me crazy-go-nuts:

    Another Youtube Video Attacking Hillary Clinton

    Please note the comment by Mar. That would be little ol’ me. OpEdNews is where I love to be the gadfly in the ointment used to grease their circle jerk, I buzz in and out just to piss the boys off. Get in. Get out. They cotton themselves quite the benevolent, fact-based realists; progressive and liberal, open-minded swell fellers. (Snort.)

  150. Mar Iguana

    Late breaking news from http://www.4ERA.org:

    Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) will announce the reintroduction of the Equal Rights Amendment today. This year, there are more than 190 original co-sponsors of the Equal Rights Amendment. The Senators and Members will be joined by leading women’s rights groups for the reintroduction with the hopes that soon women will finally achieve official equality in America.

    The Members will also announce the plans for forthcoming hearings on the Equal Rights Amendment in the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties, chaired by Rep. Nadler. The ERA has not been heard in Congress since the early 1980s.

  151. Bird

    Mearl, I’m in Edmonton, but I’ve lived in Winnipeg and I have to agree, it’s pretty similar that way. So’s Regina. Vancouver felt much less safe. Calgary is a little different too because it’s getting that big city, I don’t give a fuck about you feeling to it. My mother lives there, so I travel there pretty often, and I always feel that it’s a darker, more threatening place because of the immense divide between rich and poor that’s growing in that city.

    Pony, you and I are going to have to agree to disagree on this one. I don’t think you’re seeing that I don’t insist that all women do what I do. I know it’s a lot (hey, a year ago I was an overweight smoker who couldn’t run a block, and I worked damn hard to get to where I am now). But I think there’s a certain amount that is possible for most women, and having some basic skills to reduce the chance of harm is within reach for many of us. I am not saying that’s any guarantee of safety, but it helps. If one rapist gets his eye gouged out, then it’s worth it (not to sound too bloodthirsty or anything!).

    I don’t envy women in the military at all. I also know that women in other male-dominated professions face the same issues. There was a woman firefighter in BC recently who went through a terrible process because of sexual harassment in her department. I also wonder what the stats are like for women who work the oilfield camps here in Alberta. They’re in isolation up north, often with few other women in camp, and I’d guess that’s a scary place to be. I’m sure there are some bad things that happen, but I’m betting that most oil companies as well as our provincial bureaucrats (who rely on oil revenues) wouldn’t want us to know too much.

  152. Bird

    Pony, your other post came through moderation, and I think you are totally reading me wrong. I do not think any woman is responsible for being raped, no matter what the circumstances.

    I am saying that we can’t keep up the idea that most women are too weak and small to defend themselves. If a woman can learn to have a fighting chance, it’s better for her to do so. It does not excuse rape. It does not guarantee that she won’t be on the receiving end of some bad shit at some point. It does give her a shot. If learning to fight back (and in the words of our instructor, when it comes to self-defense, there’s no such thing as a dirty fight) can give a woman at least a chance, I don’t see why advocating that is so wrong.

    I know that we shouldn’t have to fight back. In my dream world, no woman needs to know how to fight off a rapist because all women are safe. But you know what? This isn’t a dream world. So I believe that those who can (and I recognize that some can’t) need to learn how to be safer. It’s just like learning to lock your doors, learning how to point the pepper spray, and learning not to walk down dark alleys at 2 am. If you don’t do it, it’s still not your fault if you get raped, but it’s a damn good idea to learn how to be as safe as possible.

    And as for arthritis, despite being in my 20s, I have osteoarthritis through much of my body. Don’t assume that I don’t fight my own disabilities, physical and otherwise.

    I have been assaulted. I have been a battered woman. None of that was my fault, but I’m doing my damndest to prevent it happening to me ever again.

  153. Pony

    I don’t think we disagree, Bird, as much as I’m having trouble saying what I want to say, and what I mean.

  154. Bird

    I’m okay with you giving explaining another shot. If nothing else, you an I seem to have lively debates. And for a woman who studied classical rhetoric, a good argument is always interesting.

  155. Pony

    I’m saying it’s not an idea, it’s a fact. Females are raped from months old babies to women in nursing homes unable to move. In that body of women, which includes all ages and abilities of women that I have partly listed in one post (which I can’t see right now) the woman you envision, the woman you say you are and I have no reason to doubt you, is a minority.

    And although you may be strong, and feisty and sure of yourself, and must stay that way as long as you can, it isn’t enough to stop rape and violence. If he can’t rape you he will rape some other woman.

  156. Mar Iguana

    Sorry about the lame link above for the Clinton video. Maybe this one will work:


  157. mAndrea

    Apparently I am a cold unfeeling bitch. Because I see the upside in twenty years – when tens of thousands of women* who were violently exposed to the systematic misogyny so prevalent in our culture finally get ANGRY.

    *Women with guns.

  158. Bird

    Pony, I see your point. We’re not in disagreement on that. The thought that my mother (who is helpless and in a hospice) or a woman like her could have something like that happen to her makes me sick. I’m not arguing that disabled, sick, or elderly women (or little girls, or other women who can’t defend themselves) are any less worth protecting, any more deserving of abuse, or any less valuable/important.

    I can only hope that strong women can stand up for weak women. I can say that women who can fight back need to learn how. I am not saying that doing that will bring an end to rape, to abuse, to terror. A much larger shift obviously has to happen than just a few of us learning how to get out of being pinned or how to make someone let go if he’s grabbing your hair.

    I can’t post a guard by every woman’s bed or wheelchair and every baby’s crib (how I wish I could when I hear some of the things that happen!). I can ask for at least some of us to have the ability to be our own defenders and maybe even defend other women around us, like the two female bar staff who saved that woman from a date rapist by reading the signs and taking action. And I hope that my ability to defend myself will also help me be able to someday defend my children (I’m not a mother yet, but I expect I will be).

    So yes, Pony, you’re completely right. It’s not going to end rape and violence. There’s a whole lot more that has to change about the world before that happens. But it may at least keep a few more of us alive and able to keep fighting for the rest.

  159. Bird

    Oh, and please don’t think that I blame strong women who get raped either! I’ve known some damn tough women who’ve been victims too.

  160. mAndrea

    I should look up some rape studies I read previously. A tiny percentage of *reported* rapes end in gross physical injury and death – something like 2-3%. Of those, almost in all cases the victim was abducted and moved to another location. So fight to the freaking death in those cases.

    As for the rest of reported rapes, most of them were by acquaintances. The guy uses *the fear* of physical violence as a tool to coerce and intimidate the victim into passive cooperation. Afterwards, it comes down to “he said/she said”.

    Would be much more difficult for the rapist to get away with it if he’s covered in scratch marks, and the victim is temporarily banged up. Better temporary injuries which heal then a lifetime of not being believed and yet another rapist free to do it again. This is my opinion as a survivor and living with the aftermath.

    How many bar fights end in death? The guy isn’t interested in causing permanent or serious injury, he’s only interested in reducing his victim into a psychological puddle of fear.

    I feel sorry for all those girls raised to be passive “nice” ladies, because those are the ones who make great targets.

  161. kiki

    Did you know that the military won’t cover the cost of an abortion, even if the servicewoman has been raped but they will cover the cost of breast implants? That says it all.

  162. Bird

    When it comes to acquaintance rape, the thing that scares me the most is date rape drugs. I had an experience once at a party where I had a bad reaction with a prescription medication combined with alcohol (asthma meds that only cause this reaction in a few people).

    Anyways, I had no memory of the night or how I got home. I phoned our local community health phone service, and the nurse told me to put everything in a paper bag and go to the emergency room. It never even occurred to me until then that something very bad might have happened. I spent all night in the ER waiting for the SART nurse (sexual assault response team) to let me know whether or not I’d been raped.

    I was fine. A few days later, when I got hold of another woman who had been at the party, she said that her mother had driven me home and I had seemed really drunk but okay.

    But I’ll never forget not knowing what had happened to me. Scary, scary shit. I can’t imagine finding out that someone had raped you and not even remembering who it was or how it happened.

    There’s no fighting against that. You just have to keep an eye on your drink, stick close to your friends, and hope to hell that you’ll be safe.

  163. MiniK

    Your comment is awaiting moderation.

  1. Reverse Paranoia | the cat lady speaks

    […] As Twisty points out, the photo at the top of this very story shows abused AWOL soldier Suzanne Swift reclining on the beach in the pose of an odalisque… […]

  2. Calling out the NYTimes Mag. « The Geek Side

    […] To be fair, I didn’t find this one myself. Via Twisty, where much good discussion is already taking place. […]

  3. Patriarchy and the Military « The Blog and the Bullet

    […] Posted by Jack Stephens on March 23rd, 2007 Twisty, of I Blame the Patriarchy, posts a blog on an article she read in the New York Times Magazine: The New York Times Magazine story about post-traumatic stress disorder in women in combat is 16 screens long, but it can be boiled down to this: Women in combat are likely to be sexually assaulted by their peers, and to get PTSD as a result, and the military pretty much turns a blind eye. […]

  4. God is for Suckers! - Commentary, news, and rants on the evils and stupidity of belief in the big invisible daddy in the sky. Illuminating and watchdogging the widespread attempts to institutionalize the theocratic rule of the US. Making fun of believers

    […] You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site. Leave aReply […]

  5. Martian Anthropologist » Chastity belts are “like, sooo yesterday”…

    […] I’m with Twisty Faster: I blame the Patriarchy, too. […]

Comments have been disabled.