Archive | January, 2012

An Open Letter Regarding a Radical Profeminist and Other Would-Be Helpers

22 Jan

This is an open letter about men who claim to be feminist and to the women who believe them. This letter is directed at women who — without any analysis or criteria — believe men who claim to be feminist. This letter is not directed at anybody else, so please ensure that you are indeed a member of the intended audience before replying. This letter has been written with the cooperation of 28 radical feminists, all of whom should be familiar to those who frequent radical feminist spaces. We are rather serious about a rather serious harm being committed with impunity.

First, you need to know why we have a valid reason for being concerned about the behavior of self-identified feminist men within feminist spaces, and our answer is simple: We have identified the subtle mechanisms utilized by “pro-feminist” men to divide and conquer, to erase the commonality from all women within feminist spaces, and whose cumulative effect results in a gross marginalization of the radical feminist position. We are not the only women to notice a problem. Megan Milanese brilliantly describes most of the tactics in her blog post about fauxminism and men — yet that list does not go far enough to analyze the extent of the problem.

So why should an erasure of the commonality inherent to all women matter to anyone besides radical feminists? Lucky Nickel makes the relevant connection for us:

Self-naming and self-identified labels mean nothing. There must be substance to the label they identify with and substance to who they claim to be. Otherwise folks can insist on calling a mouse a giraffe or claim rape is really love.

What I do think important to note is that liberals, lesbian separatists and radical feminists are all flying the radfem flag these days. The problem being, they are 3 separate and distinct political groups and ideologies, 2 of whom are inappropriately waving the radfem flag. It can get a bit tricky tho with lesbian separatists as radical feminists can also be lesbian separatists. But not all lesbians are radfems and not all radfems are lesbian separatists, or even lesbian for that matter. But in Julian Real’s case, that would be irrelevant. The dude is not a lesbian or radical feminist.

What the dude is, is a liberal. And what he is attempting to do is appropriate the radical feminist label in order to inject liberal ideology. Equality politics are liberal politics, not radical feminist politics. Radical feminists seek liberation from men and their system, not equality. Liberals focus on differences between women. Radical feminists focus on the commonality of women. Needless to say, these 2 different ideologies conflict and clash. Which delights men like Julian Real to no end. Cuz if he keeps liberal women pitted against radical feminist women, it keeps women from unifying, which in turn keeps the heat off of pricks like him and men in general. Slick, no?

In talking to each other privately, we have decided to collectively communicate the following message regarding men such as Julian Real, Hugo Schwyzer, and other men like them, who claim to be feminist allies.

These men do not speak for women as well as we can speak for ourselves and we ask that women give radical feminist bloggers the respect of reading our words, joining the discussion in comments on our blogs, and contributing to our own community rather than giving energy to men who seek to divide us on points which all feminists have in common. Men exhibiting these behaviors have inserted themselves into discussions among women when their participation was insidiously harmful in nature and we ask that you not support that behavior nor make excuses for it.

Women working together, apart from the men who seek to divide us, can create something that only women can create.

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Plunder

9 Jan

All of this debate about female sexuality & the empowerment of women that hinges on their ability to choose whether or not they want to be sex workers, strippers, porn stars, mother’s or wives, in my opinion, is merely a smoke screen, a diversion that keeps women and men from being concerned with what really matters in regards to the oppression of women and the inequality of the same.  I find the argument as well as any other argument regarding women’s sexuality and how it relates to her empowerment superficial and quite frankly irrelevant. Would we be discussing a males sexuality in regards to his sense of self or his empowerment? Females however are the sex class therefore distinguishing a females sex from her sense of self or her empowerment is unlikely–in other words females are sex.  In this writing I will attempt to explain why this is the case. First however I want to introduce a novel idea. Females are human beings that matter just because they are female…….. Sex worker, stripper, porn star, mother or wife are all roles that women play and they have all been prescribed by men to benefit men. Women have been socialized in patriarchy to be the role and not to be their authentic selves which is a much deeper problem than the role she plays or the men or children she takes care of. Women are not taught to love themselves because they are women, they are taught to love themselves in spite of it.  Men do not need a role to be recognized in our society, they just are. They are human beings that matter just because they are men.

Women on the other hand, if not connected to a role, a man or a child, are invisible.  In other words, without the role,  there is no reason for her existence.  The origins of this mentality come from the origins of patriarchy and its counter part religions, Judaism, Islam & Christianity.  From the Old Testament of the Bible we all know the story of Adam & Eve but do we really understand how it has effected us as human beings and as societies.  Adam was created as an autonomous human being.  He was created whole from the stuff of creation. Eve however was created as an after thought, to keep Adam company. Eve was created from Adam’s rib. For Eve to exist, Adam needed to exist first. Without him, she would not be. She is made out of the stuff of Adam.  Eve then is perceived as only a part of him and not an independent human being.  She was created to keep Adam company and she does not matter apart from this role.  He animates her, but not the other way around. This idea about the female sex, that they exist for the sole purpose of keeping men company, that they exist only through the male is still in our psyches today regardless of whether or not you are an atheist or Christian because this mentality is built into patriarchy, it’s the foundation of patriarchy, the lifeblood that keeps it erect.  I like to call it the Viagra of patriarchy.

In our ancient past, men would wage war and girls & women were considered the plunder along with the gold and livestock they stole after conquering their enemy. The young girls were sold or taken as wives or put to work as sex workers and the old women were usually killed because they were of no use to men in regards to slave work, sex or childbearing.  And now in current times most people think that females outnumber males but this is only true in America. In third world countries females are literally being discriminated to death. The percentage of females vs males is strikingly low.  Studies have shown that almost 100 million girls “disappear” each year, killed in the womb or as babies.  In many of these cultures if a family does not have enough food the boys eat first and the females starve. If a female is sick medical attention is withheld and the females die. And too often parents will kill their female babies because females are disposable compared to males. This mentality is again due to females not being seen as autonomous human beings, but instead their worth is completely dependent on their use for men. I had an argument recently with a man on Facebook who told me that genocide was more of a concern than sexism. I begged to differ and told him that it is sexism that has lead to female genocide in countries outside America and inside America in more subtle ways. This mentality regarding sexism is pretty typical in patriarchy. The importance of sexism is downplayed and dismissed because the victims are primarily female and again females are not considered to be human beings. Within genocide there are men and it is the men that matter, so if the victims are female, it isn’t genocide at all. Even though this particular man considered himself a feminist, he subconsciously held the same biases we all do in regards to females.

In the book “Half the Sky” the author illustrates how the Bible plays a large role in the sanctioning of the killing of females.

If a man takes a wife and, after lying with her, dislikes her and slanders her and gives her a bad name, saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her, I did not find proof of her virginity.” then the girl’s father and mother….shall display the cloth [that the couple slept on] before the elders of the town..If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl’s virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death. – Deuteronomy 22:13-21

Of all things that people do in the name of God, killing a girl because she doesn’t bleed on her wedding night is among the most cruel. Yet the hymen–fragile, rarely seen, and pretty pointless remains an object of worship among many religions and societies around the world, the simulacrum of honor. No matter how much gold may sell for, a hymen is infinitely more valuable. It is frequently worth more than a human life. This harsh view has dissipated in most of the world, but survives in the Middle East, and the emphasis on sexual honor is today a major reason for violence against women. Sometimes it takes the form of rape… because often the simplest way to punish rival family is to violate the daughter. Sometimes it takes the form of honor killing, in which a family kills one of its own girls because she has behaved immodestly or has fallen in love with a man (often there is no proof that they have had sex, and autopsies of victims of honor killings frequently reveal the hymen intact). The paradox of honor killings is that societies with the most rigid moral codes end up sanctioning behavior that is supremely immoral: murder.

The author suggests here that the Middle Eastern men are acting from a moral code directly from the Bible and yet they are committing a mortal sin-murder. How can they justify murder when they are so strict in following the moral code of the Bible? Again, it is because they are murdering females, non human beings who are the property of men, this is their loophole so to speak in regards to the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. This goes way beyond sexism or discrimination. You can’t discriminate against property. You can’t murder property.  In the Eastern Congo, the world capital of rape,  the militia consider it risky to engage in fire fights with other gunmen, so instead they assault civilians. They discovered that the most costs-effective way to terrorize civilian populations is to conduct rapes of stunning brutality. Frequently the Congolese militias rape women with sticks or knives or bayonets, or else they fire their guns into woman’s vagina. In one instance, soldiers raped a three-year-old girl and then fired their guns into her. ” Major General Patrick Cammaert, a former United Nations force commander, spoke of the spread of rape as a war tactic and said something haunting: “It has probably become more dangerous to be a woman than a soldier in an armed conflict.”

This message about the female sex is everywhere. Currently, in almost every movie or every TV show leading men have women hanging on them like jewelry. If you are a rich or powerful man, you have a dozen cars and a dozen women, all interchangeable as objects that he has purchased with his wealth. These women never seem to have identity’s of their own, but instead are an extension of the men. Everyday we see subtle reminders of this “Adam’s rib” mentality. For example, when women submit to being under the terms; guy, fellow, man, brother, master and so on. Can you imagine what would happen if heterosexual men were told they have to submit to being under the terms, lady, woman, sister or mistress? Men would consider this an insult and they wouldn’t tolerate it. Why? Because they believe that females are inferior to males therefore being called a female term is degrading to them. If you think this is not true, test it out, call one of your male friends a girl, female, woman or a lady while he is in the presence of other males.

Similarly, females submit to being under the male terms because they too harbor the false belief that they are inferior to men; therefore by submitting, it’s like a step up to females because they are then part of the human race, they are human beings. This belief that males are superior to females is inherent in patriarchal societies and is therefore going to be equally inherent in both the female and male psyche. But it doesn’t stop there. We have to dig even deeper and ask the question why are females seen as  inferior. Again we are back to the Adam’s Rib mentality, she is a part of him and she is nothing without him.  Her worth then is dependent on her relationship with him. If a heterosexual female is independent, without a man, she is seen as lost & out of the fold and there must be something wrong with her and she is called a spinster, a term that in our ancient past prior to patriarchy meant a woman who spins, but now post patriarchy is used to demean women who refuse to be with men.  She then needs to be roped back into male dependence otherwise she is a threat to the patriarchal order.

Even more revealing is our English language and the defining terms for females: Wo-man, lad-y, s-he, he-r & fe-male, all contain complete male terms; man, lad, he & male however the part of the word that makes the words female are not complete words but instead a letter or letters added on. The female part of the words  are incomplete, literally dependent on the male words to complete them–to exist. Further, the female part of the words are just letters that can not stand on their own as autonomous words. This language echos the belief in our society that females are not complete human beings but instead merely a part of the male human being.  Mary Daly, a Radical Feminist writer & scholar wrote:

Julia Stanley and Susan Robbins have written of the peculiar history of the pronoun “She”, which was introduced into Middle English as a late development. During the Middle Ages, “he” had come to be both the female and the male pronoun. After “she” was introduced, it referred only to females, while “he” became “generic,” allegedly including women. This transition in the history of the pronoun “he” was hardly significant: “Since the female pronoun always designates females–while the male designates all humans as well as all males, patriarchal language, as manifested in the pronominal system of English, extended the scope of maleness to include humanity, while restricting femaleness to “the Other,” who is by implication nonhuman. Any speaker internalizing such a language unconsciously internalizes the value underlying such a system, thus perpetuating the cultural and social assumptions necessary to maintain the patriarchal power structure.

The same goes for many traditions that we still uphold to this day because we do not think about their origins and what they mean; for example, a father giving away his daughter in marriage. He owned her prior to her husband and her husband then takes ownership of her. When the person marrying the couple says; “I now pronounce you man and wife”, the man was and still is a man, but the woman is a “wife” a role that is dependent on him. You will sometime here “I now pronounce you husband and wife, but you never hear “I now pronounce you woman and husband”. Or as assessed by the English conservative moralist Sir William Blackstone: “The husband and wife are one, and the husband is the one.” He keeps his identity because he always had a separate identity not dependent on anyone else unlike the woman who, if you look at marriage historically from its origins, never had a separate identity to begin with.

In the seventeenth century, the idea that females should have control over their own decisions was preposterous. Fathers had authority over daughters until they married. Once married, women were required to obey their husbands. Women exercised some choice over whom they would marry but a decision not to marry at all was impractical, given the restrictions on their access to education or well-paid work, their only options were then prostitution or entering the clergy and becoming a nun. Therefore a woman goes from the ownership of her father to the ownership of her husband and in the ceremony this happens literally when the father takes her by the hand and hands her over to her husband. Further, women are automatically expected to take on their husbands last name and drop their own and this is illustrated in our laws.  If however a man wants to drop his name and take his wife’s either alone or to add it onto his last name, he has to do this through additional legal channels with additional cost; in other words, his last name is important in that it needs to remain in tact however the female last name is not.  A woman’s feelings about losing her last name a part of her identity is not considered. However, if a woman specifies that she wants to keep her last name, this is considered emasculating for the man and she is pressured to submit, and she usually does.  The question here is, why is it that a man feels weakened when a woman wants to keep her own identity separate from his? Why is female independence so threatening and why is it associated with male weakness?

The reason of course is that in patriarchy a woman is not allowed to be separate, she is not allowed to have her own identity and her trying to do this is a threat.  If she remains in tact, independent of him, then he is weakened because she helps him, supports him, gives her energy to him.  He would then have to take care of himself and his energy would then be used for domestic tasks. This would weaken patriarchy, and rightly so.  Even though he can survive without a rib and is considered a whole human being without it,  he has ownership of his rib and he wants it back because she (his rib) takes care of him, props him up.  On the other hand, a rib is not a whole human being that can exist independently. She needs him to exist and apart from him she does not exist.  On a larger scale females are a part of patriarchy in the same way, in that it stands on the backs of women.  Females have historically done most of the domestic work for free, freeing males up to do everything else unhindered including keeping their dominance and privilege in place.  Males and patriarchy have too much to lose to allow females their independence because who then would do all the “demeaning” work and who would take care of them and their children?  Consequently, even though females are invisible,  disrespected, unappreciated and underpaid for all of the back breaking work that they do in our  society and even though without females doing all of this work, our society would collapse, females will never be recognized, appreciated or rewarded for any of it because they and their work is invisible, hidden within the the human male and collectively within patriarchy.

So you tell me, would any male you know put up with this kind of treatment?  Most females not only put up with this abuse but they do what they do without complaint and they do it brilliantly.  This tells us a lot about the character of females.  They are humble, hard workers that tend to care about the well being of others more then themselves. This type of altruistic character is what our planet is missing. Men on the other hand created a world order that dismisses females, half of the human population as being human beings, stole their independence and made them dependent on them for the sole purpose of making their own lives easier.  Most men need praise for everything they do because their fragile egos demand it.  Most men need to dominate others because their fragile egos require it. To me it isn’t a reach then to contemplate the idea that perhaps females would be better candidates then men for the charge of our planet. So why then do we skirt this truth? Why do we at all costs never, ever name the real disease that plagues our planet?  Like the female sex this non questioning in and of itself is also a part of the Adam’s Rib mentality. Because females are not human beings, there is no problem and/or the problem is invisible because females are invisible.

As a society and as individuals unless a person has taken steps towards unearthing information that is not mainstream, for example, Women’s Studies & Feminism , she/he will not realize what is going on because this way of thinking is ingrained in us all and it is then considered “normal”.  It is the very foundation of patriarchy and it is all we know consciously as human beings. She is not independent of he — literally. This is the truth of the matter and this truth is buried within us all.  Females are excluded because they are included. Their exclusion is due to their inclusion. Males on the other hand do not have to worry about this ever. Males are by rights separate autonomous human beings because they are the default sex and and we take this for granted just like we take for granted that females are not.  Females just for females sake is seriously frowned upon in patriarchy because females for their own sake are not dependent on males and this does not support patriarchy. This is why males exclaim when they see a beautiful woman who is a lesbian, “what a waste!” They express the “Adams Rib” mentality, that if a man can’t have her, she has no value.

So again the issue here is much deeper than the roles women play and the controversy surrounding these roles. The issue resides in that empty place deep within all females where their authentic selves, their power as independent females, used to be, prior to patriarchy. The authentic female has been plundered by men and replaced by a prescribed female who only exists through her dependence on him, through the roles of wife, mother, sex worker, stripper and so on.  Not only did males physically enslave females by taking away their physical freedom, they  did something much worse, they crippled females  by taking away their authentic selves, their identity that exists independent of them–their power as autonomous females. This theft of the authentic female has caused enormous suffering for females and it has also caused an imbalance internally within all humanity and externally in our world. Consequently, the authentic female and her offer of a more balanced, holistic and cooperative way of living is missing and sorely needed. The emptiness where her authentic power and energy should have been is apparent throughout patriarchal history and is palpable now, in the devastation to all living creatures including our mother Earth.

This is the crux of the issue and it is particularly disturbing.  We know that males will never value females just for their own sake as independent human beings therefore it is imperative that females value themselves and each other. Females need to realize that they have a common bond, the emptiness where their authentic selves used to be and the promise of a return to their power which is their birthright. Females also need to realize that they have been supporting the very system that oppresses them by continuing to invest their energy into it. This of course was not their fault, men did this to them by programming them to believe that their prescribed femininity was their true identity. Females need to understand that because their authentic selves were plundered, leaving an emptiness, they then were tasked with taking care of men, that this was what they were told they were created to do, what their real calling in life was supposed to be.  Females then were forced into filling up their emptiness by supporting men and by supporting men they also supported a patriarchal and masculine way of life.  Consequently, it is extremely important that females take back their energy from men and from patriarchy thereby rendering it impotent and no longer feasible as a worldwide social order.

On a more personal note; as a woman, socialized in patriarchy, I know this empty place intimately; it is my constant companion. This emptiness has been the driving force behind me trying to fill myself up with men, drugs, sex & children. I can’t run or hide from it and I’ve tried to kill myself because of it. My authentic female self was stolen from me and because of this I have been a slave to men and to patriarchy my entire life. This is why I take care of others, this is why I do not allow myself to stop for one moment. If I stop, if I slow down, if I allow myself to be vulnerable, let down my guard, I can feel my own and the collective despair of millions of women. In that emptiness, I feel the loss of who I could have been, for the empowerment that was stolen from me, the longing for my authentic self. As a woman, this is what I struggle with every day, every hour, every minute and this is what matters.