The other day I posted a YouTube link to a short film wherein a hapless dude gets a beatdown in a “matriarchal” society. It was a sort of regenderization of a sexual assault set in a bizarro-world where women are the aggressors. I interpreted the tone of the director as something like, “OK, dudes, now do you see how it feels to live in a rape culture?”
Blamer Serial Cereal commented:
Can’t y the x, Twist. Can’t penguin a giraffe. Bad math. Otherwise, nice. Makes me want to throw together a crack team handycam indie short.
Along with an admirable disregard for the convention of subjects in sentences, Serial Cereal raises an excellent point that I failed to articulate in my original post. You can’t simply reverse the roles, or “Y the X”, because there is not a one-to-one, apples-to-apples correspondence between the actors in the primary dudes-vs-dudessess reference scenario. Dudesses and dudes are, in our culture, more like apples and roundworms.
Today’s thesis, brought to you by Captain Obvious, is this: rape culture, not unlike marriage culture, is a pretty heavily gendered culture.
I know, a-doi, right? Well, I was skimming through this scholarly article, Gender and the Culture of Heterosexual Marriage by Karyn Loscocco and Susan Walzer, when my lobe farted out the idea that the dynamic the authors describe, that of detrimental imbalances that obtain in het marriage as a result of internalized gender differentiation, is precisely the same dynamic that produces rape culture.
I am aware that this lobe fart appears to more or less equate marriage and rapiage. Without getting into a whole big thang with you happily married ladies, I’ll just say this for now: of course they’re not the same, but marriage and rape culture are both points on the same continuum of patriarchal oppression. As cultural institutions go, they are of equally ginormous prominence, with marriage as the conspicuously “official” narrative of blessed motherhood and human harmony, and rape culture the furtive, prurient, underground counter-narrative of violent peen-power. They’re equally reinforced by the same patriarchal mores that disproportionately privilege dudes and damage women, having evolved out of the same primordial gender-predicated social soup. They’re two sides of the same coin, where the coin is a wooden nickel.
Here’s a pithy little paragraph from the article:
Societies go to great lengths to create gender distinctions that yield inequality, and then use the differences they have created to explain the inequality (Lorber, 1995). Major articulations of gender construction theory emphasize the pivotal role that defining women and men as opposites plays in the reproduction of women as ‘‘less than’’ men (Connell, 1995; Risman, 1998, 2004; West & Zimmerman, 1987).[p.3]
This contingency not only forms the substrate for marital discord, it’s the whole Global Accords Governing Fair Use of Women in a douche bag, i.e., the key concept what permits rapers to glorify, celebrate, and commit rape.
Gender — by which I mean the construct of gender difference (and the concomitant oppression to which it inexorably leads) — is so deeply embedded, so heavily reinforced, and so seamlessly integrated in every aspect of human social structure — from the personal to the interpersonal to the institutional* — that it essentially operates invisibly, and congratulations if you made it through this sentence alive.
What this means is that, nice effort though the film is, you probably noticed there’s something about it that just doesn’t compute. Our gendered brains cannot suspend their disbelief. As viewers, we can’t help but approach the film as members of, and indeed participants (albeit unwilling ones) in, the Patriarchal Matrix: a gender-differentiated, misogynist culture. As in, our only reference point is a culture that is based on grossly exaggerated and artificial gender norms, which norms are internalized to the extent that they not only feel normal, but inevitable.
Thus, even though we grasp the director’s intent, the film’s shirtless female jogger reads, not as “free-wheelin’ member of the master class,” but as “tople$$” or perhaps “degraded”; we can’t buy that she’s not stimulating every dude’s ogle gland. The dude character seems extra pathetic because the mean women around him have so unjustly usurped his position as oppressor. You really can’t Y the X. The concepts don’t translate between the genders.
That’s why regenderization isn’t, to my mind, as useful a persuade-the-oppressor tool as it is an illuminate-the-oppressed tool. As I’ve maintained all along, feminism isn’t so much about using clever arguments to persuade recalcitrant dudes to view women as human. It’s about fomenting a revolution that liberates us from male oppression, screw those dudes’ fucking irrelevant opinions concerning our humanity.
As for marriage culture, I leave you with another pithy quotation from the article:
‘Every woman I know is mad at her husband, just mad mad mad at everything. Every time I bring it up to a woman like me she just goes bananas’ [p.4]
* I cribbed this point from Loscocco and Walzer.