Today’s Hugs, Twisty asks the tone-deaf question “how do you fight the power?”
I would like to refer you this ghastly t-shirt (appropriately classified as “funny” on this yahoo shop site), my knowledge of which is sadly not theoretical or internet-based. No, it was actually worn by a male acquaintance of mine at a pub I was recently enjoying a beer at
Being blissfully short-sighted, I did not manage to decipher the words on his t-shirt from where I was seated, but my friend did. She leapt to inform him that his t-shirt was disgusting, that he ought to be ashamed of himself, and instructed him to either turn it inside out or leave the pub.
Of course, he laughed, play-acted that he was adoring the attention she was pouring on him, then used his advantage of size and privilege to completely dismiss her once he’d had enough. Charmingly, he also managed to loudly and to other mutual acquaintances refer to the two of us as ‘ugly lesbians*’ who had a problem with his t-shirt. It was a trifecta of misogynist, privileged arseholitude, right there: Wear a t-shirt that constitutes an active threat of physical violence, bask in the attention you receive for wearing it, and then call the women who have a problem with it ugly lesbians. Do all of this while surrounded by trendy ‘progressive’ hipster fuckwits who will cheer you on for being so ‘daring’ and ‘transgressive’, and who will verbally agree with you about those silly ugly lesbians who have a problem with your absolutely hilarious t-shirt.
I am curious to know if you, or the Blametariat, have any tips whatsoever on responding to situations like this- is there anything at all that can be done that doesn’t play directly into the ‘transgressive hipster douchebag hero, getting up those feminazis!’ narrative? I am more than happy to consider world revolution and the overturning of the patriarchy as solutions, but it would also be nice to hear of immediate strategies. Ones that allow me to drink beer in peace with my eyeballs unmolested by rape & murder threats, without having to first establish an entirely new world order within which to do it. Because I’m fairly sure I will want to drink beer between this moment and the one where the revolution comes.
*We are, in fact, lesbians. His powers of observation were not deceiving him. I believe he was meaning to be insulting, though.
I admire your dedication to beer.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you are like most Western women, and have been assured that you are entitled to certain human rights under the law. Let us further imagine that — although, sure, you’re aware that women do more housework than men, and get paid less, and are less likely to hold public office, and stuff like that — you have more or less believed that you’ve got it pretty good compared to women living under other regimes. Let us then imagine your surprise when, one fine day, you discover that it is all a lie. The misogyny you have been hearing so much about has actual, personal consequences right there in the local pub. Your humanity has been called into question right in front of you, and everybody thinks it’s hilarious.
Your outrage proceeds from the intolerable disenfranchisement forced on you by involuntary membership in a subjugated class.
You ask, essentially, for strategies to get patriarchy out of your face until it is made to really go away.
I regret to say that, due to the all-encompassing and self-propagating properties of patriarchy, what you ask is not possible. I might go so far as to say it’s not even desirable. I might go that far on accounta the big problem with patriarchy is that it is already functionally invisible, and it is this invisibility that is women’s worst enemy.
Often, late at night, I am plagued with the creeping suspicion that even women who identify as feminists (I don’t mean you personally, Slashy; I have now branched out into the twilight zone of spinster auntly theorizing) have a lethally inadequate understanding of the enormity of patriarchal oppression.
It might help to view patriarchy, not just as some abstract concept that Internet feminists blog about when they aren’t out shopping for flat shoes, but as an occupying force. Think, for a moment, about, oh I don’t know, Gaza.
Palestinians are human beings, and should be able to flit about the Gaza countryside without anybody shooting at them. Likewise, you are a human being, and should be able to drink a beer in a room where nobody is sporting the raiment of a death-rape cultist. But in no wise does being human ensure that conquering forces will perceive that humanity, or consider it sufficient deterrent to violent actions that keep you under their thumb. I aver that in an occupied territory where no organized resistance exists, individual public expressions of personal sovereignty are doomed to failure. This is because members of the occupying forces, their sympathizers, and the collaborators who survive by aligning their behavior with the occupiers’ beliefs and appetites, vastly outnumber the resistance.
In the case of women vs patriarchy, there is no resistance. There are a few professional feminists, a few “Save Roe!” campaigns, a few sexual harrassment suits, a few spinster aunts, but these are a drop in the ocean compared to the overwhelming popularity of the dominant culture. The megatheocorporatocracy has pulled off the most cunning instance of divide-and-conquer in the history of the world. They’ve got it all set it up so that women are trapped by economic necessity and/ or social convention in isolated nuclear families to which their self-sacrificing loyalty is ensured through a lifetime of indoctrination. Women who elude capture in that manner are taken into custody by consumer rape culture; the occupying forces keep them at heel by using them as receptacles and rewarding them for internalizing such messages as “I need big boobs to feel good about myself.” The interests of both groups of women are thereby aligned with those of the dominant culture, which contingency not only ensures the patriarchy’s continued self-replication, but discourages women — whom the system pits against each other — from fomenting civil disobedience, let alone riots and insurrections.
What I’m getting at is this: absent an established, organized resistance which can never congeal until women get hip to the truth about patriarchy, no stopgap measure, no letter to the editor, no appeal to the management, no snappy comeback to “dead women can’t say no” can possibly effect the outcome you seek. The occupying forces have neutralized your personal sovereignty. You have no right to object to behavior that is consistent with the global accords governing fair use of women.
The truth about patriarchy is this: insurrection will require, as its first step, copping to the one thing that no woman with either a family or a Nigel or a successful career as a hottie or an empowerful-grrl investment in the patriarchal canon can bear to admit: that men hate them.
Unless … you say that this sterling specimen is an acquaintance? I’d put a maggoty dead rat in a gift box and leave it on his doorstep.
It’s cheerful posts like this that make I Blame the Patriarchy the Number One Blog in the universe.