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Born that Way

1 Nov

It is imperative that we question all patriarchal ideas including the ideas of sexual orientation and gender, regardless of whether or not it is politically correct. I’ve seen this subject skirted and tip toed around, but I can’t help but imagine a world without patriarchy and if we can imagine a world without patriarchy we can also imagine a world without labels such as heterosexual, lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, queer and so on.  If we begin to question these labels and where they came from, we would see that their origins are from a false biological essentialist idea that we are born sexually oriented and gendered, this idea coming from men and patriarchy itself in order to mandate the subordination and domination of females.  What is ironic and tragic is that the very same idea was adopted by the LGB community and then later the Transgender community to use politically to fight for equality with the heterosexuals and “normally” gendered people. Paradoxically the equality sought was unfortunately an equality to a very sick system of ideas.

What is ironic here is that the biological essentialist idea being used to fight for equality, rights and protections was what caused the inequality in the first place. What is tragic is that by using the B.E. agenda politically it solidified these toxic patriarchal ideas even more and has created a very unhealthy environment for all human beings.  The biological essentialist agenda is exactly the same agenda as patriarchy has always tried to sell to us; that heterosexuality is a normal state of being and anything else is deviant. That females should naturally be in relationships with men. This biological idea trumps the facts that are  staring females in the face, that men have enslaved, oppressed, brainwashed, coerced, beaten, raped and murdered them for thousands of years. That females aren’t free to choose men on their merit alone because it is biological, not a choice.  Females are born that way and must be with men regardless of the way men treat them or disrespect them as human beings.  The same goes for gender.  That females are biologically feminine (subservient) and males are biologically masculine (dominant).  These born that way ideas match very nicely the constrictive ideas that brought on the outcry in the first place, the very ideas that are causing all human beings to suffer, especially female human beings.

The born that way stance was then and continues to be used as a political platform to gain rights and protections for people who don’t fit into the patriarchal mind numbing constrictive ideas of sexual orientation and gender. This agenda however isn’t helping to get rid of these patriarchal ideas but instead solidifying them even more. In most cases however, the people who are using the agenda aren’t doing this knowingly. They aren’t questioning the ideas because the information like all other patriarchal information is standing right in front of them but is also invisible. It is just the way it is and has always been. The born that way idea is being held up as the golden receptacle of change yet it is the antitheses of change.  To legally state that human beings are born lesbian or gay (sexually orientated) we are also legally stating that human beings are born heterosexual. That somehow at birth most of us are heterosexual and that a minority of us are attracted to the same sex. How can we say that an infant is attracted sexually to the same sex or the opposite sex? This doesn’t develop in the human being until later in life. This biological idea has never been proven scientifically.

The same goes for the idea that we are born in the wrong body. That somehow at birth most of us are gendered normally, males are masculine and females are feminine and for a a minority of us, this went awry and the opposite occurred. That Infants are naturally masculine or feminine. However, this develops later in their life, the idea that they don’t fit into the gender role they are prescribed in patriarchy. It is important here to note that most children should balk at these gender roles. Children should not be coerced into behaving certain ways based on their genitals, but they are due to patriarchal coercion and we can’t ignore that factor (but we do). Again the end game is always female subordination and again this biological idea has also never been proven scientifically.

If we instead were to state that human beings are actively choosing the same sex partners or choosing to behave feminine or masculine or both out of their own individual authenticity, this would bring into question the patriarchal ideas of sexual orientation and gender.  Can females actually choose to be with women? Can males actually choose to behave feminine (subservient)? Can females actually choose to behave masculine (dominant)? If the answer is yes, then patriarchy itself doesn’t make sense. The rule of men, the domination of men over women and the second class nature of the inferior female starts to unravel. This is why it is extremely important for patriarchy to maintain the idea that this is biological. If sexual orientation and gender are biological, then patriarchy is correct. The rule of men is correct. It is biologically ordained, right as rain. This is why legally it is important to not allow the social argument and instead only allow the biological one. I don’t think this is what lawyers are thinking. I don’t think they actually understand the mechanisms of patriarchy including the ideas of sexual orientation and gender, and because of this ignorance they don’t think about fighting against them; instead they fight with the tools that they think will win the easiest. This is not surprising. This happens all the time in patriarchy. Our legal system is built on this premise. We fight with patriarchal tools instead of fighting patriarchy itself.

Even though these born that way tools did work legally to add legislation to protect the LGB community from harassment and violence and this is a good thing of course, they did so at their own and all human beings expense, especially at female expense.  By using patriarchal tools, the born that way agenda, they helped to solidify the very ideas they we are fighting against. By stating that they are born that way, they are then considered to be deviants from the normal state of affairs (heterosexuality). They are victims to their biology and because of this, they can be thrown some scraps from the patriarchal table and told to quietly go away, all the while patriarchy and it’s restrictive ideas about sexuality is never threatened. Since gayness is biological and since there is a much lower percentage rate of gay persons than heterosexual persons, we can conclude that gayness is an anomaly, a deviation to heterosexuality. That being the case, even though it is dangerous to be intimate with a man due to epidemic male violence, unless you are born a lesbian you should be with a man. The idea that being gay is a disorder and the idea that females must be feminine and men masculine stays steadfast, never questioned. People who suffer from gender dysphoria are coerced into changing their physical appearance to fit into the stereotype that patriarchy has dictated to them. To go to such lengths to physically match the patriarchal idea of how we should behave, pumping ourselves full of harmful chemicals and surgically removing parts of our bodies goes a long way as propaganda that our gender is biologically mandated and that indeed patriarchy is also biologically mandated. That is the bottom line here. That is the end game. That has always been the end game.

If we continue to fight for rights and protections by using the same bad ideas as our weapons, we will continue to solidify the very system that is causing our reasons to fight in the first place. It doesn’t make any sense to continue doing this. Instead we must fight the actual system that is dictating to human beings these toxic ideas that continue to enslave females.  We must do this so that all human beings can freely choose without constraint or brutality who they want to love and how they want to behave.  Then finally when we see that we can choose to love who we want and behave how we want, not because we are born that way and have no choice, but because we are complicated human beings who if allowed to be authentic will choose what we truly want, we will gain freedom. At the very least, we must continue to question everything that exists within patriarchy and think about what could exist without it.

Michele Braa-Heidner

Within the Patriarchal Toolbox

20 Apr

“In the heyday of the Women’s and Gay Liberation Movements, the view was widely held that sexuality was socially constructed, and indeed relatively plastic: lesbianism, in particular, was presented by some feminists as a political choice. But in the last 20 years this view has largely withered away. Faced with well-organized opponents denouncing their perverted ‘lifestyle choices’, some prominent gay/lesbian activists and organizations began promoting the counter-argument that homosexuals are born, not made. Of course the ‘born that way’ argument had always had its supporters, but today it has hardened into an orthodoxy which you deviate from at your peril.

Since ‘born that way’ became the orthodox line, there has been more mainstream acceptance of and sympathy for the cause of gay/lesbian equality, as we’ve seen most recently in the success of campaigns for same-sex marriage. Though it is possible this shift in public attitudes would have happened anyway, it seems likely that the shift away from social constructionism helped, by making the demand for gay rights seem less of a political threat. The essentialist argument implies that the straight majority will always be both straight and in the majority, because that’s how nature has arranged things. No one need fear that granting rights to gay people will result in thousands of new ‘converts’ to their ‘lifestyle’: straight people won’t choose to be gay, just as gay people can’t choose to be straight.

If you adopt a social constructionist view of gender and sexuality, than lesbians, gay men and gender non-conformists are a challenge to the status quo: they represent the possibility that there are other ways for everyone to live their lives, and that society does not have to be organized around our current conceptions of what is ‘natural’ and ‘normal’. By contrast, if you make the essentialist argument that some people are just ‘born different’, then all gay men, lesbians or gender non-conformists represent is the more anodyne proposition that diversity should be respected. This message does not require ‘normal’ people to question who they are, or how society is structured. It just requires them to accept that what’s natural for them may not be natural for everyone. Die-hard bigots won’t be impressed with that argument, but for anyone vaguely liberal it is persuasive, appealing to basic principles of tolerance while reassuring the majority that support for minority rights will not impinge on their own prerogatives.

For radical feminists this will never be enough. Radical feminism aspires to be, well, radical. It wants to preserve the possibility that we can not only imagine but actually create a different, better, juster world. The attack on feminist social constructionism is ultimately an attack on that possibility. And when radical feminists take issue with trans activists, I think that is what we need to emphasize. What’s at stake isn’t just what certain individuals put on their birth certificates or whether they are welcome at certain conferences. The real issue is what we think gender politics is about: identity or power, personal choice or structural change, reshuffling the same old cards or radically changing the game.”    Delilah Campbell

After reading this article, I began to question the idea and/or political agenda that people are born gay or born heterosexual.  If you believe this agenda, then you believe in the biological essentialist agenda, that people are born with a gay or a straight brain.  That somehow our sexuality is programed in our DNA, predetermined in the womb or even before that.  I understand this stance being taken within the context of patriarchy and its restrictive ideas about sexual orientation. I understand it in the context of fighting against the patriarchal idea that heterosexuality is normal and anything else is deviant but by taking this stance aren’t we actually agreeing with this idea? By adopting the biological essentialist agenda, instead of questioning our patriarchal ideas about sexual orientation, we solidify the belief that anyone that is not heterosexual is deviant.  It plays right along with the idea that heterosexuality is the norm and that some unfortunate people just happen to be born gay and that we should not discriminate against them because they have no control over this “biological condition.”

This platform has been used politically in the past with the LGB community and now it is being used by the transgender community to gain rights and protections that were not there before,  some of these rights perilous to women. The problem with this platform is that it doesn’t question the social idea that heterosexuality is normal and anything else is not. By not questioning the role our society plays in our ideas or restrictions regarding sexual orientation and by claiming it is biological instead, we completely limit the conversation and do an injustice to humanity.

Sheila Jeffreys wrote in her book, Gender Hurts:

I am very aware that new generations of feminist, lesbian and gay activists and thinkers may find the idea of social construction difficult to accept. The idea that homosexuality and transgenderism are innate has become quite dominant today, whereas at the time of the second wave feminism, the understanding that gender and sexuality were socially constructed was commonplace.

By claiming that our sexual orientation is biological, we admit and agree with the patriarchal agenda that heterosexuality is normal and anything else is deviant. In order to gain protections and rights in this socially restrictive environment, the LGB community had to go with the biological essentialist model because doing so was less of a threat to the patriarchal status quot and their adversaries could feel comfort in allowing these rights because it didn’t affect them, their world wasn’t being threatened in the least because examining the social environment that they lived in and relied on was not being discussed.  Instead, giving “those” people rights wasn’t such a bad thing because “those” people are the problem, not us, not our social ideas.

The implication here is that being gay is a condition, just like being transgender is a condition because both are abnormal. Gay people are then seen as deviants in our society and society itself and its inherent restrictive ideas are never questioned and therefore never threatened.  Nothing threatened, nothing gained, at least not really. This works for political platforms to gain rights and protections for what our society considers deviants, but it also harms them and our society by not bringing into question our restrictive patriarchal social ideas that are unhealthy to all human beings. The transgender political agenda is also based on biological essentialism.  Again, they are using a political platform that has worked within patriarchal constraints to afford them rights and protections, but again at what cost?

When a person claims that he or she is born in the wrong body or sex and that he or she has a male or female brain at birth and that for some unfortunate person this goes wrong and his or her brain doesn’t match his or her genitals, this is a very small limited viewpoint of a much larger issue.  Males may exhibit feminine behaviors and females masculine behaviors,  both seen as deviating from the socially dictated gender constructs and in both cases these people are actively ostracized.  We then instead of looking at our society and the ideas we have of gender as the problem, look at the individual and claim that they are “transgender”, a condition that they were born with; therefore, they are the problem, they are abnormal.

But what if these children aren’t the problem? What if the social constructs of gender, femininity and masculinity are?  What if masculinity and femininity aren’t biological at all but instead dominant and subservient behaviors,  patriarchal mechanisms, created by men to keep men in power and women oppressed?  For men, aggressive, dominant behaviors and for women passive, subservient behaviors? In the book, Loving to Survive, Dee L Graham argues that feminine behaviors are identical to submissive behaviors. That all human beings including men who are being dominated act “feminine”.  Do we really want to believe that females are born subservient and that males are born dominant? That this is the natural order of things? Are we really all just hair challenged apes?   I believe and so do most radical feminists, that the pressure all human beings endure to act masculine or feminine depending on their genitals needs to change.  The restrictive idea of gender has to change. Would anyone want to have sex changes if the masculine and feminine gender roles weren’t there? If it didn’t matter whether or not a person has a penis or a vagina and both were not attached to specific behaviors?

Jeffreys wrote:

The construction of transgenderism in the late twentieth century resembles, in important respects, the construction of the homosexual. The 1960s and 1970s were the glory days of social construction-ism in the social sciences. Lesbian and gay theorists and historians, educated in the values of those times, argued that the idea of the homosexual, as a particular kind of person who was destined by a congenital abnormality to be exclusively attracted to others of the same sex, was in fact a social construction (Mackintosh, 1968;
Weeks, 1977 ).

If radical feminists currently agree that gender is a patriarchal construct then why are we not questioning the idea that being gay or straight is also a patriarchal construct?  Why are we not questioning the biological essentialist agenda that some members of the LGB community believe in, like we are questioning this very same agenda in the transgender community? And further, doesn’t the very idea that there are separate communities tell us something? If we buy into the idea that we are born gay or born heterosexual, we refuse to recognize that sexual orientation much like gender orientation could be a patriarchal social construct and in so doing the enormous implications of this are lost. We then truncate the analysis and truncating any analysis is not radical feminism. I think we need to explore the subject of sexuality like we do anything else in patriarchy. We need to pick it apart and take it to the root of the problem. Is heterosexuality normal or abnormal? Is being gay normal or abnormal? How does our patriarchal environment factor into the analysis? If patriarchy dictates every belief we have about what is normal and abnormal including our ideas about gender and sexuality, how could it not?

In Gender Hurts:

The first detailed articulation within sociology of the idea that homosexuality was not a ‘condition’ but a ‘social role’ was by the lesbian sociologist Mary Mackintosh in her path-breaking article, ‘The Homosexual Role’ (1968). She applied understandings from labeling theory to homosexuality and argued that conceptualizing the homosexual as a certain kind of person who suffered from a condition operated as a form of social control, which ‘helps to provide a clear-cut, publicized, and recognizable threshold between permissible and impermissible behavior’ (Mackintosh, 1968: 183). Mackintosh explained that, in relation to homosexuality, ‘[t]he creation of a specialized, despised and punished role of homosexuality keeps the bulk of society pure’ (Mackintosh, 1968 : 184). She says that psychologists and psychiatrists take part in the labeling process in relation to homosexuality and thus in the ‘mechanisms of social control’.

This way of seeing homosexuality is useful for understanding transgenderism too. The creation of the transgender role can be seen as a way of separating off unacceptable gender behavior, which might threaten the system of male domination and female subordination, from correct gender behavior, which is seen as suitable for persons of a particular biological sex. In the case of homosexuality, the effect is to shore up the idea of exclusive and natural heterosexuality; and, in the case of transgenderism, the naturalness of sex roles.

In patriarchy, we have been socialized to believe that heterosexuality is normal and being gay is deviant and for some reason most of us don’t question this idea. So I ask you now, why not? Could heterosexuality be a patriarchal agenda created like gender for men to control women? More specifically, and more importantly, the question I want to ask is, is heterosexuality normal in patriarchy? Isn’t it counter intuitive to be heterosexual if you get into the actual semantics within patriarchy?  For example, women throughout patriarchal history have been enslaved, oppressed, victimized and murdered in epidemic proportions by men; yet, we are still being taught that we should not only love men, but also live with men.  Isn’t it more true that in reality, we should be removing ourselves from the vicinity of men; thereby, removing ourselves from the danger of violence and death?  Women live in terror on a minute by minute basis due to the threat of male violence and we are taught to deny this threat.  Male violence is so normalized that it exists as a low level anxiety for most women and an extreme danger signal for other women depending on their circumstances, yet we are being told that men aren’t the problem and that it is men who will protect us. If we lived in the land of opposites (which we do in patriarchy) then this all makes perfect sense. But if you look at it logically, rationally and reasonably, heterosexuality is dangerous for women in patriarchy.

Since the patriarchal agenda is for men to control women, heterosexuality is a social mandate that does just that, it enforces female relationships with males. It is a patriarchal mechanism that works like no other mechanism, including gender.  Gender constructs such as femininity and masculinity are detrimental but they come into play within the confines of heterosexuality.  Feminine or subservient behaviors are roles that women are forced into, the men doing the forcing through masculine pressure within the heterosexual relationship. If heterosexuality didn’t exist, gender roles would also not exist. Heterosexuality keeps women in close proximity of men and this accompanied by male violence keeps women under male control.  Women under male control ensures free domestic labor. Free sex. Free emotional support and so on.  Heterosexuality is beneficial for men but in this same society, heterosexuality is extremely detrimental for women. But we don’t ask whether or not heterosexuality is beneficial for women. In a world where women don’t matter, what is good or not good for them doesn’t matter either. We don’t question gender or sexuality within the confines of patriarchy because to do so brings females into focus, where normally they are invisible, obscured behind the default male. If we question heterosexuality, She will materialize. She will demand to be dealt with.

In patriarchy, heterosexuality for females is counter intuitive.  You might argue that heterosexuality is a biological imperative. That we need to propagate, but do we really? Aren’t we  overpopulated with people? Further, isn’t it true that women don’t need to be intimate or even in close proximity with men to get pregnant anymore?  Also, in ancient times, women weren’t isolated with one man, they lived with groups of women separate from the men and the women still had babies.  Women are being isolated from each other in nuclear families and we are told that this is normal and the only way to live. But is it?  Women living in nuclear families isolated with one man, in fact has proven to be deadly for women. Although random male violence does occur, in most cases, it is men who have sole access to women in intimate relationships that violate, rape and murder women. Let me ask you this, if women removed themselves completely from the reach of men, would there be any rapes, abuse and murders? Would women still be in danger?

Removing women from the proximity of men is the only way to keep women safe–but this idea doesn’t ever surface in our consciousness. If you look at how men treat women globally, you could even say that the idea of loving or even liking men is unnatural, that heterosexuality is unnatural.   Women are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Women are taught to believe that they need men to survive. They need men to be something in a male dominated world where otherwise they are nothing. But the opposite is actually true. It is men who use women. It is men who need women. Women in all aspects of life are better off without men.

So then I ask the question again, is heterosexuality normal for women in patriarchy?

If we begin to analyze sexual orientation within patriarchy and come to realize that like gender, sexual orientation is also a patriarchal construct that furthers the patriarchal agenda, then we must also question the born gay or straight agenda.  Radical feminists have always argued against biological essentialist agendas and have adopted the social constructionist one, patriarchy being the environment where all of these male social ideas are born and conditioned into us all.  Of course never forgetting that patriarchy itself was created by men.  I also want to distinguish here that when I talk about gender and sexuality as social constructs and not biological, I am not throwing out the idea that men are biologically different than women and vice versa. This idea is a completely different discussion for another time. Radical feminists believe that gender is a social construct created by men, one of the many tools within patriarchy to oppress the female class. In other words gender was created by men as a tool to oppress women in patriarchy.  Gender constructs are entrenched in patriarchy and in all human beings who live in the same and they are anything but superficial or trivial.  Because these gender constructs are so pervasive in our society and also deep within us all and because they are also invisible due to normalization, they are extremely difficult to eradicate because we don’t question them.

Case in point, the biological essentialist political agenda came into fruition because of this difficult fight. It was easier to fight within the patriarchal box, with patriarchal tools, then to try to destroy the box.

If we are born gay and it isn’t a choice, then patriarchy remains safe. The patriarchal agenda of making sure women are heterosexual and in the control of men is not threatened. If women weren’t coerced and brainwashed into believing that heterosexuality was normal and everything else deviant, and if women were seeing clearly through their authentic selves and not through the eyes of terror due to male violence, they would never choose to be heterosexual. they would never choose to be in relationships with other human beings who not only disrespect them but violate them. Why would they? Who chooses to not only live with but love human beings that treat them so badly? The very fact that women believe they are heterosexual is a testament to the power of patriarchal conditioning.  Against all evidence, all rationality, all sanity, women are choosing to be with men, or are they? in order to make an intelligent rational choice, you have to be provided with options, not coercion.  So then we must ask the question, are women really choosing to be heterosexual?

There has been a lot of talk in the LGB community and within the feminist community, including radical feminist, that heterosexual women have privileges that lesbian women do not.  That there are benefits afforded to straight women that are not afforded to lesbian women.  In my opinion, this idea needs further analysis.  If we come at this idea from a biological essentialist stance that lesbians are born gay and they have no choice in the matter and therefore are considered deviants and outcasts, then yes, straight women are more embraced in our society and afforded more rights, but at what cost, and whose rights are they really? If we ask the question. is it a good thing to be embraced into a society that hates, oppresses and violates women, then wouldn’t we come to another conclusion? How can being embraced by a sick society be a good thing? Instead of calling it “embraced” shouldn’t we be calling it “enslaved”?  Why would you want to be a member of a society that uses, abuses and spits you out when it has no more use for you? If you approach this issue from a social constructionist stance, women being embraced in patriarchy is like a lion giving a rabbit permission to lick his balls before he eats the rabbit.

Women are being embraced in direct correlation to serving the needs sexual and otherwise of men; the embrace is conditional and deadly. Moreover the so called rights heterosexual women are afforded in patriarchy are not their rights at all but instead rights that belong to the men they are in relationships with.  If you are a woman and a heterosexual, your identity is dependent on men. Your worth is dependent on men. Your autonomy as a human being doesn’t exist apart from men. From this point of view, it would seem that lesbian women are more liberated from male enslavement then heterosexual women.  Lesbian women for the most part do not live in close proximity to men; therefore, they are also safer.  Yes I understand that lesbians are raped, violated and murdered and persecuted by men because they refuse to have sex with men and because they are women, but because they are removed from intimate relationships with men and the nuclear family environment, they are removed from that particular danger and more removed from male violence then heterosexual women.

Lesbian women actually seem in my eyes to be the sanest human beings on the planet because it literally makes more sense to be a lesbian than to be heterosexual in patriarchy. All of the facts scream at us that women are not safe around men. That men hate women most of the time and yet we are being conditioned and coerced into dismissing these facts. Women are being coerced into heterosexuality by a male dominated system that absolutely needs them to be heterosexual.  From birth, women are groomed for this role, to be under the control of men.  This is imperative for the survival of patriarchy and the rule of men.  If women didn’t do the domestic labor or take care of men in all facets, patriarchy would crumble. If you believe that being gay is biological, that you are born gay, then the social implications of our patriarchal conditioning is dismissed and this is a good thing for patriarchy.  If we all believe that being gay is an abnormality a deviation from the norm, then patriarchy remains safe and men can continue to spew heterosexual propaganda to its female population.

If you believe you are heterosexual, I must ask you to really question this belief and where the belief came from. Women are being conditioned to go against their own intuition about men in our society to our own detriment.  I never questioned whether or not I was heterosexual, even though I had one of the most beautiful relationships with a woman, so much deeper than any man I have ever known.  I never questioned it because, much like the male gender is the default in patriarchy, it is the default sexuality as well. To be anything else is considered deviant and deviating from the norm is hard to say the least. So I ask you, what if being heterosexual in patriarchy is insane?  What if what we think is normal is not normal? If we do our fact checking and we really, really look at men, even the men we live with or love, we can begin to see behind the vale of our patriarchal conditioning.  We can begin to see that within patriarchy, heterosexuality is counter-intuitive for women. If it is in fact dangerous for women. If heterosexuality is instead socially constructed by men to benefit men and women who choose to be with men are doing so due to coercion, brainwashing and out of terror of male violence (Stockholm’s Syndrome), then heterosexual women are– to put it mildly—fucked.  If heterosexuality is ultimately the result of terrorizing women into submission and most women are not able to break free of this terror,  we have a social pandemic on our hands.

Lesbians then are the only ones who are not in denial. Who are not suffering from Stockholm’s Syndrome. If lesbians then are the sane ones and thereby the normal ones in our society and heterosexual women are not, how can we continue to claim that we are born gay or straight?  How does this benefit women in patriarchy? Ann Tagonist wrote at her blog:

“Political Lesbianism offers women a framework from which to view the institution of heterosexuality. It offers women choices. It tells them it doesn’t have to be that way. There is nothing whatsoever to be gained from telling women, “You were born hetero,” and there is so much to be lost. Why do it?”

If you are being ostracized from society and seen as deviants and not being afforded the same “benefits” rights or protections legally that heterosexual women appear to be given, would you even consider that these women are actually being harmed by these so called “benefits” “rights” and “protections”? Instead do you fight for the right to be able to get married and have community property with your spouse? Looking at it through these lenses, I can understand how this might be interpreted. But lets face it. These so called benefits are not benefits at all. Instead they are laws that further the patriarchal agenda–oppressing and dominating women. They are coercive laws to ensure women are in close proximity to men. Why else is it so difficult to pass laws for same sex marriage? Could it be because the institution of marriage is one of the coercive tools in patriarchy to isolate women from each other and put them in the hands of individual men and any deviation from this is a threat to patriarchy? In my opinion, same sex marriage is the only sane type of marriage for women.  When a woman marries a man, she enters into dangerous ground. She loses her last name without a thought. She becomes Mrs. John Smith. She loses her identity her self and he gains everything. He doesn’t lose his self, his identity. He keeps it and gains hers. They become one, but He is the One.

If we took the religious moral idea out of the equation that men must be with women and vice versa, there is no reason why same sex marriage legally shouldn’t already exist.  The legal financial benefits should be afforded to all people regardless of who they love.  However, because the institution of marriage was created by men in patriarchy as a tool to keep women under male control, losing this tool is a threat to patriarchy.  This is why gay people are having to fight so hard to get same sex marriage legalized. If you can get what you need, rights and protections without fighting the system itself, without fighting men, then why would you? I think this is where the LGB community has gone astray from feminism and where we we can be at odds, especially from the radical feminist community. Don’t get me wrong, there are a majority of lesbian radical feminists; however, the radical feminist women who are lesbians can be at odds with the LGB agenda specifically the biological essentialist agenda, but most of the time, this is not questioned because we walk on eggshells around it as to not stir the pot and create further division amongst feminist women.

The side effect however is that this keeps a lot of the LGB community away from feminism, which is not a good thing.  I think we need to address this division by talking about our differing ideas and trying to get to common ground.  If the radical feminist agenda is socially based, trying to abolish the constraints of gender and sexual orientation then how is this a bad thing for anyone? If there were no constraints, if all human beings were just human beings making choices from a basket of numerous choices, instead of “normal” people and “deviants” who have to fight for rights to exist outside of the norm, wouldn’t everyone win?  It is our societal restrictions that should be questioned and cast out, not the people who try to deviate from them.  After all, it is what we call deviant that is normal in this patriarchal land of opposites.

We aren’t born with male or female brains. Similarly, we aren’t born with specific brains dictating our sexuality.  We are born into a patriarchal society that has a specific male agenda to promote and uphold and instead of questioning this male agenda that is extremely unhealthy and try to change it,  we are labeling people who deviate from this agenda as abnormal and casting them out of society.  Then in order to gain access back into the fold, into this sick society, the people we consider deviants must be embraced through our compassion, because they have a disorder. The deviants must then fight for rights that the “normal” people have.  Fight for rights that are inherently unhealthy– rights that need to be abolished.

Radical feminists all the while have critically questioned gender in the social context  as well as the idea that heterosexuality is normal and have tried to change this restrictive environment so that the idea of gender can be some day eradicated which in turn would eliminate all discrimination against who we see now as deviants including women, transgenders and homosexuals.  Consequently, radical feminists have been called trans phobic and deemed the enemy by the transgender community.  Some day we will realize that the biological essentialist agenda regarding gender and sexuality due to its confines, doesn’t serve humanity as a constant evolving entity that needs space to grow but instead serves to further the patriarchal agenda in imprisoning us.  Similarly, if we can imagine eliminating the biological essentialist agenda and seriously talk about the idea that gender and sexual orientation are both patriarchal constructs, created by men as tools to dominate women, we could create positive change.

Some radical Feminists  will argue that if we throw out biological essentialist agenda, men then will claim to be victims to patriarchy too because they can’t control their biological urges to be violent. If we radical feminists are saying that gender is a social construct and not biological, we can’t then say that men are different biologically. I disagree with this.  What we are questioning is the ideas that are dictated by patriarchy; therefore, we must ask ourselves, who created patriarchy and who’s ideas are being dictated and to who’s benefit? Then we can begin to understand that men created the social system that mirrors their own behavior; consequently, the behavior was there prior to them creating patriarchy and the social constructs within patriarchy.

Therefore, males can be seen as biologically different than females with the propensity to dominate others, especially women. The chicken or the egg? Patriarchy didn’t create itself. The idea of dominating women didn’t come from women. The idea of masculinity (dominant behaviors) and femininity (subservient behaviors) didn’t come from women. All of the above came from men.  Male violence comes from nature and nurture (and men created the nurture).  Men are biologically stronger and they also have testosterone and some studies show less empathy for others, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t “choosing” to use that biological equipment for violence.  It seems to me that if you know you are physically stronger and have the propensity towards violently acting out you would try to suppress those tendencies and not use them against physically weaker human beings. This in itself tells a tale about the human male and his weaknesses.

If we were to discuss the fact that both the gender and sexual orientation constructs are part of the foundation that keeps patriarchy erect, and begin to dismantle these ideas, we could weaken its foundation. We could imagine a world where there is no such thing as transgender or homosexuals. Not because they won’t exist, but because they won’t have to label themselves as such because being either / or is not deviant but a choice out of the basket of numerous choices all human beings have access to.  We are human beings who have been socialized within a social system that dictates what is normal and what isn’t. Everything we do. Every choice we make can either be dictated by our patriarchal socialization or we can look at it, dissect it and understand on a very deep level what it truly is–conditioning.  If we are aware of it. If we know what it is and what it isn’t. If we question every idea that we have and trace it back to its origins, we can then begin to choose from a place of liberation instead of societal coercion.  We can make informed choices to oppose and resist or if we want to, choose to acquiesce, either way we choose from a place of knowledge, not ignorance, not terror.  Those are our only real choices.  If we continue to use tools from within the patriarchal tool box to fight for gay or transgender rights, patriarchy wins.

Michele Braa-Heidner

The Implied Existence

26 Jan

This quote by Barack Obama has been making its rounds on FB:

“The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its women. If it’s educating its girls, if women have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. But if women are oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they’re going to fall behind.”  BARACK OBAMA, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sep. 2008.

I think this quote is true, but there is an implied message here by the use of the words “girls and women” that we need to investigate.  If you read between the lines you can see that its logic is dependent on a societal status quo, that women and girls are by default not considered human beings and therefore are not equal to men.  If we replace “women” with “men” and let the quote stand, what happens?

“The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its men. If it’s educating its boys, if men have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. But if men are oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they’re going to fall behind.”

By switching the pronoun to “men” we can see that the quote is stating the obvious. The message in the quote seems redundant because our society already considers men to be human beings and because of this there is nothing to be equal to. They just are. If we replace “men” with “human beings” what happens?

“The best judge of whether or not a country is going to develop is how it treats its human beings.  If it’s educating its human beings, if human beings have equal rights, that country is going to move forward. But if any human being is oppressed and abused and illiterate, then they’re going to fall behind.”

When we replace women and girls with “human beings,” we get a glimpse into a way of thinking that still does not exist in patriarchy regarding women. Women and girls are human beings. Women and girls are 50% of the human population in developed countries. Women and girls are a part of the 100% of the human population; however, this basic fact for some reason is not the status quo in patriarchy. Instead, women are not seen as human beings, like men are. They are instead seen as a part of men, or the property of men, etc…. This quote implies this by using the words girls and women instead of human beings. This is why sexism is a more insidious problem than racism. Sexism is invisible, because women are invisible, obscured within the default identity of “men.”  Men of minority races are considered to be autonomous human beings; whereas, women are not and women of color are the most discriminated against of all human beings, because not only do they have racism, they also have sexism, to contend with.

Because females are obscured within human males, they must be surgically removed and placed outside of males in order for us to see them. Either way women are invisible as human beings and in trouble because when we remove females from  males, we remove them from the status of human beings and place them in the “other” category because males are the only people who are considered to be human beings in our society.  In this quote Obama does this without knowing he is doing it. The implication is there but not seen because the implication and this mentality is a part of patriarchy and woven into all of our psyches. The only way to extract it is through knowledge. The knowledge acting like glasses that can see the hidden meaning written in invisible ink.

Obama is correct that if  human beings are not treated equally, countries will fall behind, but he did not use the words “human beings” and this in and of itself is telling. Our constitution states that All Men Should be Treated Equally and we women are reassured that when they said “Men” they meant women too, but women know that this is not true. And even if it were true, what does it mean? Is it any consolation to women? Is it better that we are assumed to be included in the term “men” or is it worse?  Are we supposed to take solace in this obscurity? Should we thank our forefathers for the wink and dismissal? At the time that the constitution was written and still today, women were not considered to be men in that they weren’t considered to be autonomous human beings like men, and simultaneously, they were also considered to be under the umbrella of “men” or a part of men absorbed into the category of men, absorbed into men. Women had to take on the identity of their husbands or of men and were told they could have no identity of their own. This mentality still exists today in between the lines of quotes like these like ghosts haunting graveyards.

Michele Braa-Heidner

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Read all About it! Men are Victims to Pornography!

17 Nov

There have been studies that suggest that men have less empathy due to elevated testosterone. If these studies are accurate (and not just more biological essentialist BS) and our patriarchal masculine war centered society pumps up the volume on testosterone–promoting it & even worshiping it — then male empathy in said society would be lacking due to these factors. This of course is dependent on many variables. Genetics, environment, primary socialization, secondary socialization etc…. I’ve seen men who are very empathetic and young boys who show emotion and get bullied from other boys because of it–basically they are bullied right out of expressing emotions in a healthy way and promoted to only show it in angry ways. My first husband would yell at my son telling him to stop crying and he told me he did this because he didn’t want him to be bullied in school for showing emotion around other boys (because that is what happened to him).

I think our masculine patriarchal culture frowns upon men feeling any emotion except anger so when a man is hurt he is not allowed to process this hurt (by outwardly emoting) and is instead promoted to externalize it as anger and to process his hurt feelings in the only socially condoned way–by taking it out on women. And since women are seen as sex objects and are the sex class in patriarchy, not considered to be autonomous human beings, but owned by men, the development of pornography makes perfect sense in this unhealthy environment. Pornography becomes the ideal outlet for men to take their anger out on women sexually.  It is about cause and effect.  The cause is patriarchy and all of its horrific unhealthy mechanisms, including but not limited to; misogyny, gender roles & compulsory heterosexuality.  The effect is pornography.

Lately there has been a lot discussion about pornography being addictive for men. That they can’t stop viewing it because they are addicted to  to the sexual violence.  Although pornography is an obvious symptom of patriarchy, I think it is problematic if not dangerous to focus on pornography as an addiction, because by doing so, we forget about the cause of pornography and its dangers and only focus on the effect–specifically the effect on men.  Further, if we don’t eliminate the root cause, another platform for men to act out the misogyny inherit in our society will crop up.  Pornography is merely the symptom of a much larger disease.  If we claim that pornography is an addiction which then leads to claiming it is a disease (because the USA claims addiction is a disease even though this was never scientifically or medically proven and all other countries do not accept the “disease” model of addiction), then we only focus on the symptom and not on the disease itself, much like most of our medical institutions created in patriarchy focus on treating the symptoms and not the whole person or the disease, we also eliminate any conversation or analysis of the root cause.  I can imagine then that we begin to demonize the women in pornography (the actual victims). I can see the headlines now:

“Here ye!  Here ye! Read all about it!  Pornography is a disease afflicting men around the world!  Those unwholesome female porn stars are causing men pain and suffering!!  We need to save these men from those heathens!!

This type of mentality already exists regarding prostituted women. The term “prostitution” is revealing in itself because it only speaks about the act of women prostituting themselves and not the men who drive the demand due to their own misogyny and idea that they can purchase females like commodities to rape for money.  Prostituted women are demonized and blamed for tempting men to do evil things. The men aren’t looked at or blamed for their actions and most of the time, they aren’t held responsible legally either.  This is a tradition in patriarchy to blame women for male sexual perversions.  I don’t know what the answer is within the patriarchal frame, but I do know that continuing to claim that men are victims to their misogynist choices is not the answer.  This stance has never helped to solve the epidemic of prostituted, sexually trafficked (including in pornography) girls and women who are used and abused and thrown away like used condoms, but instead has only made it worse for them.  These girls and women are the patsies in the bigger scenario, a smoke screen to keep us from looking deeper at the real problem–the socially condoned inhumane treatment of females.

Perhaps we  should wake up and begin to realize that we live in a very unhealthy environment, especially for women and children, that perpetuates violence against females due to its hyper masculine, hierarchical, monetarily driven infrastructure.  That our ideals are warped and that our disrespect for women is systemic.  Perhaps we should focus on criminalizing the making of pornography and help the victims to get out by monetarily and emotionally supporting them?  We need to realize that girls and women because of limited financial choices and support and the perpetual ingrained idea that they are nothing but sex objects, that their worth is sex, nothing more, are being coerced into pornography. That especially vulnerable girls and women are being groomed by manipulative pimps into a life of sexual enslavement and despair.   They are the victims here, not the men who claim to be “addicted” to porn.  Let’s heal the real disease here—PATRIARCHY.  If we as a society really gave a shit about women we would stand up and say, enough is enough and stop it in its tracks instead of debating whether or not men are addicted to porn.

If we did not live in patriarchy and its capitalist, military environment and were all born equal regardless of our sex and allowed to be emotional human beings without being forced into gender roles and heterosexuality, both sexes could be healthy, non violent and respectful of each other. Further, the idea of prostitution, trafficking and pornography would be completely frowned upon because the entire society, all human beings would never allow such disrespect. Since we understand historically that testosterone in the peach tree dish of patriarchy can limit empathy in males then we would keep this in mind and never promote the hyper testosterone ideology that we currently do in patriarchal societies. Further, we might also ensure that all leadership has equal amounts of females and males or even better and safer, more females than males because we know that the male propensity towards domination and violence is something we must be leery of. We’ve seen it in action.

Unfortunately, our hyper masculine culture serves the elite and because one of the handy dandy symptoms of hyper masculinity is fear and because fear of violence promotes hyper consumerism this will not change until we dismantle the current leadership which are predominantly males who have all the money.  Since at least the USA is completely run by money, this will not be an easy task and further, because pornography is monetarily lucrative, eliminating it will be difficult—-but we must try.  If we focus on pornography as an addiction that is harming men, then nothing will change except more pain and suffering for females and more of the same attention on males. If we focus all of our energy on pornography as a symptom of a larger disease and work on dismantling patriarchy, we can save all of humanity.

Surviving the Agent

24 Jun

Our language and the way we name our world is not only extremely important, but also extremely revealing. When we analyze our language we find out many things about the culture that uses that language. In patriarchy, women are victims and to show women as victims is right, normal and beneficial for patriarchy. Female victimization is an integral part of patriarchy and without it, patriarchy would not exist. Patriarchy needs females to be victims. It needs females to feel like victims; otherwise, uppity females would stop their own enslavement. They would stop participating in patriarchy. They would wake up and realize that they are sleeping with the enemy. They would understand that they have Stockholm’s Syndrome and seek treatment and they would begin to stand up for themselves. Patriarchy and men cannot have this. Never naming the agent, male violence, is one tool in the patriarchal language box that works to oppress women. Language is a powerful tool that we take for granted as benign; however, it is anything but.  Language has a profound effect on our brains. Dee L. R. Graham wrote in her book, Loving to Survive, Sexual Terror, Men’s Violence and Women’s Lives:

Language, like the affiliative qualities of women, is frequently disparaged in our culture. Language often is spoken of as “just words”, as if it had no power or reality. But Feminist science fiction (like literature generally) makes us aware of the true power language possesses to make or remake our worlds. A language will reflect the dominant language using group’s view of reality. And the controversy generated when the existing structures of and assumptions about a language are challenged by a subordinate group shows that language is anything but trivial.

The beginning of the written language has the same origins as patriarchy, patriarchal religions and the rise of men, and with the written word the Bible was born. Language and words actually changed our brains and changed us.  I could go as far as saying that written language actually mimics our beliefs and ideals and vice-verse, much like religion and mythology. The language of patriarchy is no small thing. Hidden within this male language are ideals that are not female friendly; ideals that continue to oppress women internally and externally.  Women and men are taught to speak in very different ways and these differing ways are mirror images of patriarchal ideals.

Women learn to speak in the passive voice. Men learn to speak primarily in the assertive voice. Men speak from a place of “I” or identity, strong in the belief that they exist as independent human beings. Women rarely speak from a place of  “I” because they are not strong in the belief that they exist as independent human beings, quite the contrary, they speak from a place of non-existence, of invisibility because in a male dominated society women have had to survive men. Men obscure women in our society and men are the default for both male and female human beings and our language reflects this. In our language there are numerous literal examples of this mentality, the most blatant and the most detrimental for women are the message we receive with the labels or words that define us:






All of these words that we use to name females have within them male names. Moreover, these male names are complete, whole words. The parts that make the word female are incomplete add-ons to the male words and without them, they are only letters, passive appendages that amount to nothing on their own. This mirrors the idea in our society that women are not complete without men; that women are not autonomous human beings. Moreover, when women use these names to describe themselves, they internalize the meaning, and the meaning is devastating.  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.

Violence against women is a very good example of patriarchal language and the passive voice or what Mary Daly calls “male speak.” When we attempt to name the problem of male violence by truncating it and calling it violence against women, we do two profound things. On a language level, we take away the noun or referent, male that the word violence is dependent on. Without the referent, the perpetrator of the violence, the word violence is meaningless and rendered passive.  All human beings understand that violence doesn’t just happen, there has to be a violator. By amputating male from male violence, we then have a dependent word that is absent it’s referent thereby making our minds desperate to hang its hat on another referent, and devoid of any other choice we attach it to women. Thus, when we read, violence against women, our minds automatically albeit subconsciously, attach the missing violator onto women, ultimately blaming women for the violence against them.

Moreover, on a non-language level, when we amputate male from male violence we deny the existence of the perpetrator and we keep the conversation at the level of female victimization, ideas equally beneficial to patriarchy and the oppression of women. How can we solve male violence if we don’t even name it? We are essentially running in circles. We try to solve the issue without addressing the actual issue. Men are responsible for their violence, not women. When we attempt to name the problem with abstract words like; domestic violence, the war on women & violence against women, it has the opposite effect of erasing the actual problem–male violence.

When we hear the word domestic used to describe a type of violence, domestic becomes the perpetrator and since we all know that the realm of domesticity in patriarchy is considered to be a female realm, we automatically conjure up images of women, vacuuming, mopping, doing laundry, looking after children and so on; therefore, equating the word domestic with women. This yet again leads us to the conclusion that with domestic violence, women are the perpetrators and the victims. In other words, women must have done something to deserve the violence. Moreover, since women and domesticity are not relevant in our society, neither is domestic violence, the problem is circular;  women violence, violence women, she deserves violence therefore violence deserves her, it is a snake feeding on its own tail.

Similarly, when we name male violence, the war on women, we again hide the actual problem, which is male violence. This works in two negating ways.  On both levels, language and otherwise, the war, points to an absent referent — the actual enemy that is waging the war — men. We have again caused a language deficit, therefore the war must seek out and attach itself to a referent or subject, which is women.  This implies that the war on women is a war that women created, women fight and women are victims too, another circular appeal–like a rat on a wheel–expending energy but never actually going anywhere.  We are speaking about male violence in a way that denies it.  It stunts the conversation at the level of female victimization, which in patriarchy is normalized and thereby invisible. When we hear the war, we should ask, what war? Who or what is waging this mysterious war, but we don’t, because the war is on women and nobody gives a damn about women!  The war on women then becomes a pesky little issue that women have and therefore need to solve, who cares if it is men who are waging this war, apparently that doesn’t matter.  Men waging war against women is just a part of patriarchy.

Not only have men enslaved women, but they have also created a misogynist language that alienates and demeans women every time they read or utter a word of it; a language that works like an eraser, erasing them slowly over time. Sometimes it’s prudent to ask oneself, why is it perfectly OK to include women in the attempt to name the problem, but not men, when it is men who are the problem? Violence against women, domestic violence and the war on women, silently, passively and from obscurity shout about the victimization of women, the dehumanizing of women, the blaming of women for male violence.  The language women are forced to use is, like women who must survive in patriarchy, gagged, like a woman who’s had her tongue cut out,  trying to scream a soundless scream.  Even in an attempt to solve the problem of male violence, women use the passive voice, the voice of the female victim, the female subordinate, the female subservient to talk about male violence. We do this because we don’t really want to solve it if it entails naming men as the problem. This is a symptom of Stockholm’s Syndrome, a well honed defense mechanism, to survive male violence.

It is quite ironic really, women trying to solve a problem without actually naming the problem, but ironic or not this is a symptom of terror. It is a learned survival behavior.  By denying that men are the problem, they are able to continue living with them hoping that they can continue to control at least his violence through subservience and femininity and with the false belief that her man will protect her from other men.  The passive descriptions, Violence, domestic & the war hang there detached without even a hint or suggestion that there is a hammer, attached to a hand, attached to an arm, attached to a man that is systematically bludgeoning women. Dee L. R. Graham wrote:

When women deny men’s violence against us, it is impossible for us to recognize that violence is an effort to maintain male domination, female submissiveness, and possibly even female love of men. Denial of male violence makes it impossible for women to recognize, much less understand, that our love of men and our (adopted) femininity may be attempts to limit men’s abuse of women. Denial of male violence also precludes the taking of steps to end violence.

Women have been conditioned through male violence and social pressure to ensure that men are happy or at least not angry because an angry man is a dangerous man and a dangerous man is not conducive to female survival. This survival instinct is hard wired into women due to thousands of years of male violence against women and even today it dictates all of our interactions with men.  Women have learned that if they want to survive they must decipher male moods and then administer salve or whatever is needed to make them less violent.  To do this women have had to take responsibility for men’s moods, feelings & behaviors.  This is even more complicated by the fact that women are taught that they don’t matter. Their identity only counts if their identity is supporting the male identity. Women cannot have an identity or self of her own. Consequently, women have learned to feel an extreme sense of responsibility for men:

Captive Is Hypervigilant Regarding the Captor’s Needs and Seeks to Keep the Captor Happy. In the Service of Keeping the Captor Happy, Captive Tries to “Get Inside the Captor’s Head.

To survive men, women have learned to navigate male moods and to do this, they have learned to empathize with a capital “E”.  Women empathize with men to such a degree that they take on male pain as if it were there own.  Women for the most part aren’t aware that this is hard wired into them. If I hadn’t read,  “Loving to Survive” by Dee L. Graham, I too would not have been aware that I was doing this myself.  I’ve always wondered why when I see a man, even a complete stranger cry, I feel like crying too. It tugs on my heart strings and I feel responsible for making him feel better. I realize now what this means. The very idea that I feel responsible for male pain and worse, that I do not feel this at all when I see a woman cry, makes perfect sense now. Knowing this however doesn’t feel very good. It makes me cringe inside. But there it is, patriarchal survival 101, and even I, a radical feminist, can’t escape it.

Because I am a woman, who must survive in a male dominated world, I have an investment in making sure men are less violent.  The need to decipher the male mood and work towards keeping them less violent is what women have done and continue to do because they believe that they can make a difference, that if they do everything right, if they are subservient enough, kind enough, loving enough, selfless enough, they can change him into a better human being. This belief is what keeps women from going off the deep end; regardless of whether or not it is true. Women need to feel safe, to have some sense of security even if this safety and security is an illusion. Women need to understand this phenomenon. Women need to understand why they behave the way they do. Why they ring their hands and feel responsible for men’s feelings and behaviors and why they stay with abusive men. It is all connected and if women understood this, they could take steps towards realizing that they too are sick with this disorder and would feel less compassion for men and more compassion for themselves and other women.  Ignorance in this case is only bliss for men, not women.  Ignorance also makes women less compassionate for other women who we see catering to their men.

Before coming across this knowledge, when I saw women doing this, walking on eggshells, catering to men, I would cringe because (or so I thought) it rubbed my radical feminist sensibility the wrong way; however, now even though subtle, I realize that I do the same thing when I interact with men. I also realized that it wasn’t about me being a radical feminist, but instead, me judging other women was a projection of my own self loathing. On the surface, it looks like women are needy and need male attention and approval. It may even look like compassion, but if you look deeper, you will find that this behavior comes from the need to survive male violence.  To survive, women must take on their abusers perception, get inside their heads in an effort to control their abuse,  in order to feel safer, they ultimately lose their own perspective and begin seeing themselves through men’s perspective.

Captor Sees the World from the Captor’s Perspective. She or He May not Have Her or His Own Perspective. Captive Experiences Own Sense of Self through the Captor’s Eyes.

Women believe that their best chance of survival, although brutal and painful, is to stay with the men they know (literally).  Knowing their men then replaces their own sense of safety, their fight or flight instincts.  Women then believe that men’s behaviors including abuse is their fault.  If men lash out at women ( non persons)  women are at fault because they are seeing themselves through their abusers eyes and instead of it being their abusers fault, she takes responsibility for it because she must have done something wrong to make him act that way.  She wasn’t timid enough, nice enough or what have you; therefore, it was her fault. Women blame themselves because they failed at doing the one thing they have learned to do for survival and that is to keep their men less violent.

Women also feel that it would be more dangerous to leave the male batterer that they know, then to be out in the world without protection from other men. She chooses instead to stay with him, wanting to believe that even though he is violent and even though he hurts her emotionally and physically, amongst a sea of male violence, he is her life preserver. She probably also knows that when she leaves him, he could hunt her down and kill her, which is quite common due to the lack of protection provided to women in our society. Ironically, men created the nuclear family to isolate women to ensure female subservience and complicity, and this arrangement has benefited men in many ways. What men did not bargain on was the female tenacity to survive and what these survival tactics would look like.

Women have had to become invisible to survive for thousands of years and taking that first step out of bondage, by letting go of what they believe is their life preserver (men) is frightening. So with this mentality, most women don’t rock the boat.  Most women don’t name the perpetrator and men continue to get away with violating women. In this insane world, women try to work on the problem that is male violence while at the same time hanging on to their life preserver for dear life. I’ve always argued that women temper male violence. That in places where there are no women such as male prisons and where women have no rights or power, where they are disenfranchised the most such as the Taliban in the Middle East, men are the most violent.  When men are left to their own devices, they tend to transgress into barbarians. And although my argument is true, my reasoning on why women are able to temper male violence was incomplete, because I didn’t have all of the information needed to really understand why. The reason of course is because in places where women are allowed even the minimum of rights, such as domestic rights and the right to emotionally support their husbands, women go to extremes to make men less violent.

One of the captor behaviors I’ve noticed in women is the aversion to defending themselves against male violence. I’ve consistently been bewildered by this because it just doesn’t make sense why any human being would not defend themselves against a threat of violence.  However, bewildered or not whenever I voiced my opinion about women needing to defend themselves by any means possible, I get women who oppose this idea vehemently.  Now that I am armed with more knowledge and I understand the symptoms and behaviors of  Stockholm’s Syndrome,  I am no longer puzzled about this phenomenon.  Because women have had to see the world from the captor’s perspective and not through her own perspective to ensure her own safety, the idea of harming men then is like harming themselves because their perception has been displaced into the male perception. Women more often then not, see their world through male eyes.  Consequently, the idea of women shooting men, even if doing it will save their lives, is uncomfortable. To shoot men, would be like shooting themselves because their sense of self is in men.

Defending themselves against male violence then is shot down because if women admit there is a threat or admit that they need to defend their lives they would have to admit that they are not safe regardless of their tireless efforts, which means it was all for naught and they have failed.  Women would then feel a loss of control, the false control they think they have gained by being subservient and feminine, being what men have trained them to be.  Over time women have evolved to believe that fighting men with violence doesn’t work. They understand on a deep level that it is like shooting a bear with a be be gun and it will most likely just anger them and the beating will be even worse; so women have learned not to fight back. Women believe that the only way to survive their predicament is to do what women have done for thousands of years, acquiesce, be nice, smooth things over, calm him down, be invisible. This is what works, this is what has always worked and doing anything other than this is —DANGEROUS.  This of course is an illusion but there it is. So when women oppose or refuse to fight men, we can understand why.

I now have so much more empathy and compassion for myself and other women because of my new understanding. Male violence is so normalized in patriarchy that we don’t even realize how much it affects our reality and daily lives. It’s like white noise in the background. But the truth is, it affects us tremendously and women have evolved in a specific way because of it.  Women are what we are today because of male violence, not in spite of it. Women’s behaviors then are dictated by the need to survive and the need to survive dictates that we keep men from being angry and violent. Everyone knows that women are very good manipulators. Everyone knows that women manipulate  to get “what they want” , believing that women do this out of selfishness.  What if this ability has evolved to keep men from victimizing us?  What if for women, getting “what they want” was about staying alive?

I’ve noticed that myself and others get extremely irritated when they see women manipulating others in real life, in the movies or on TV.  What is interesting is that women who manipulate are virulently hated, even though men are getting what they want by physical violence. It is extremely ironic. It really is ridiculous to believe manipulation is worse than physical violence, but we live in a male world and everything men do is revered, even violence and everything women do is frowned upon.  Men created the nuclear family to isolate and control women; however, there have been secondary ramifications of separating women from other women and pairing them up with men. Men did it to control women; and this has certainly been one result; however, their has been other results that may not have been foreseen. In the Nuclear family arena, women are better able to manipulate one man– their man — and control his behavior–even if they can’t do so outside the home. The home then becomes a woman’s control zone which equals safety and even if their husband or boyfriend beats them, it is a danger that they believe they can control. Women put all of the emphasis on herself. She takes responsibility for her behavior and his therefore she alone has control over the situation, the abuse. This is all an illusion of course but you can’t fault women for trying. Since women for the most part are less physically strong then men, they have and continue to fight them the only way they can through emotional manipulation.  Women are practiced in the art of emoting, men are not. In the emotional arena, women feel that they can prevail against men.

Patriarchy, horrible as it is, is probably tame compared to a patriarchy without women. Imagine what our world would be like if men were left to their own violent devices?  Would human beings have survived? In my opinion the male ego, entitlement and his lack of empathy for other human beings will be his ruin.  Men know that women without the dominance of men, would begin to wake up and realize the amount of energy they are putting into surviving men.  Men know that women would figure out that the energy they expend making sure men are less violent, could be spent on more important things. Men know that women who gather together are more likely to rebel.  What men don’t know, because in order to come by this knowing they would actually have to see and understand women for who and what they are instead of what they do for him, is that women have actually gained an advantage and that is the ability to manipulate men.  Because men have depended on women to temper their moods, they have limited capacity for doing this themselves; therefore, if women did decide to boycott men, take their energy back, separate from men and fight back, men would devolve into apes, after all men without women are at best, very much like the common chimpanzee.  Human evolution has been stagnant since the dawn of patriarchy and the only reason we have evolved at all is because of women, not in spite of them.

The answer? In my opinion, women need to understand why they behave the way they do and realize their behavior, although it was out of the need to survive male violence, is not actually stopping men from being violent. Women also need to realize the amount of power they have given men when they lose their own sense of self or perception in order to feel as if they can control men by being in their perception. Women need to wake up to the fact that men are going to be violent towards women regardless of what we do and that maybe, just maybe, female subordination and femininity is not healthy or a deterrent to male violence. If  women stop believing in the illusion that they can control male violence and that it is their fault if they can’t, they can begin to get out from under their denial, out from under the male perspective, their captors perspective and into their own perspective, ultimately seeing the epidemic of male violence against women for what it is, a serious threat. Then women can take steps towards protecting themselves and other women from that threat. Whether they purchase guns, learn how to use them and carry them on their person, or whether they choose other ways to defend themselves, the important thing is that women choose to protect their lives instead of continuing to protect men.

Michele Braa-Heidner