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The first step to understanding privilege is recognizing the various forms and flavours it comes in. If you happen to be Asian and female, well, the fun(?) doubles as you get to deal with not only the misogyny, but the racism as well. Woo-haa! (Go to the tumblr Creepy White Guys for more examples.)
Just a few snippets of what women have to deal with:
Wow, ran across the Feminist Current and Meghan Murphy is knocking them out of the park with great articles such as this one tearing into one of Canada’s national newspapers, the Globe and Mail, for taking the well travelled low road of misogyny. I just have the highlights here, but you should go read Megan’s entire post, it is well worth your time.
“One of the things we’ve learned from feminism is that, while men have long enjoyed arguing that biology accounts for misogyny, having used scientific arguments to “prove” that, for example, male dominance, rape, male violence and of course, the objectified, sexualized female body is “natural”, things are not quite so clear cut. Similar arguments have been used by white men to justify racism and slavery. As such, it seems reasonable to assume that those doing the “science” and those communicating to society what is and is not “natural” based on said science have some level of control over what we come to believe, as a society, is true, factual and, of course, “natural.”
Though Brown claims that the intent of his article is to “investigat[e] the famous male gaze,” he has zero understanding of it. The male gaze is a concept which was explored initially within feminist film theory and has since extended into an explanation and analysis of the objectifying, disempowering male gaze. So when a 58 year old man decides that a 20 year old woman is a beautiful flower which exists in order for him to look at, he dehumanizes her. And, as many of us know already, dehumanizing a human being is a dangerous thing. It means we no longer need to treat said human being with respect. A body part is just a body part, not a whole, complex being with thoughts and feelings.
One of the most minor consequences of the male gaze is that, and I will speak from personal experience here, a lifetime of being looked at makes you feel as though your self-worth is largely dependent on your ability to be desired by men. This is not a good thing. It is something many women fight at every turn. Yet we still internalize that male gaze. This means that many women see themselves through male eyes. We also believe, to a certain extent, that we exist for your viewing pleasure. Should women really have to fight to believe that their value exists outside your desire?
I won’t speak for any other woman aside from myself at this point, but “Hi, Ian Brown! I am a woman and I don’t want you to look at my ass. It doesn’t feel flattering, it feels creepy. It makes me feel self-conscious and it makes me not want to leave my house. I may be too old for you at 32 (gross!), but many old men stare at me regardless. I hate it. It makes me want to punch them. So stop. Please. I guarantee your penis will survive.”
The fact that men believe women exist for their viewing pleasure IS A PROBLEM. It doesn’t matter how much men like it. I should be able to leave my house without feeling watched.
I am not your right. No woman is. No matter how beautiful she is. You have no right to her. She is more than just body parts. Allow me to confirm what I assume was the fear which led you to write this piece, Ian Brown, you are a perv. Stop staring at us. We have the ability to exist without your eyes on our asses.”
Today is not for learning about 101 level feminism. Today is calling down from pulpit the rage and the anger against the systematic oppression of women in our society. If you’re not “down” with Patriarchy and what it entails, I’m not here to explain it to your special snowflakyness (at least not today).
Today, friends, we address a structural question that I rarely see mentioned in the abortion debate. It is a relationship between the amount of freedom women possess in a society and said women’s access to reproductive health services – covering contraception, abortion and all shades of family planning. The correlation being that as women become full fledged members of society they gain the right to decide what is best for themselves and their families contrary to established patriarchal norms.
Women when not chained to strict reproductive roles gain freedom in society. When women can control their fertility they can choose to join the public sphere (or not) and contribute in more ways than just propagating the species. How bad was it, let’s look at what women were fighting for in 1922.
“WHEREAS, Women today, although enfranchised, are still in every way subordinate to men before the law, in government, in educational opportunities, in professions, in the church, in industry, and in the home:
“BE IT RESOLVED, That as a part of our campaign to remove all form of the subjection of women, we shall work for the following immediate objects:
“That women shall no longer be regarded and shall no longer regard themselves as inferior to men, but the equality of the sexes shall be recognized.
“That women shall no longer be the governed half of society, but shall participate equally with men in the direction of life.
“That women shall no longer be denied equal educational opportunities with men, but the same opportunities shall be given to both sexes in all schools, colleges, and universities which are supported in any way by public funds.
“That women shall no longer be barred from any occupation, but every occupation to men shall be open to women and restrictions upon the hours, conditions and remuneration of labor shall apply alike to both sexes.
“That women shall no longer be discriminated against in the legal, the medical, the teaching, or any other profession, but the same opportunities shall be given to women as to men in training for professions and in the practice of these professions.
“That women shall no longer receive less pay than men for the same work, but shall receive equal compensation for equal work in public and private employment.
“That women shall no longer be barred from the priesthood or ministry, or any position of authority in the church, but equally with men shall participate in ecclesiastical offices and dignites.
“That a double moral standard shall no longer exist, but one code shall obtain for both men and women.
“That exploitation of the sex of women shall no longer exist, but women shall have the same right to control of their persons as have men.
“That women shall no longer be discriminated against in treatment of sex diseases and in punishment of sex offenses, but men and women shall be treated in the same was for sex diseases and sex offenses.
“That women shall no longer be deprived of the right of trial by a jury of their peers, but jury service shall be open to women as to men.
“That women shall no longer be discriminated against in inheritance laws, but men and women shall have the same right to inherit property.
“In short – That women shall no longer be in any form of subjection to man in law to custom, but shall in every way be on an equal plane in rights, as she has always been and will continue to be, in responsibilities and obligations.
They understood back then what was required to be free, to be treated equally and fairly in society because women at the time (1922) they were NOT. Not legal persons under the law, but rather owned property of men, slavery all but in name, so to speak.. Look at our rape laws to see how women are viewed as property rather than as a person. Its chilling.
Enter the “pro-life” movement, more accurately, the forced-birth, anti-choice, anti-woman legion that is blithely serving the patriarchy attempting to remove women’s hard won bodily autonomy. Denuding women of their rights serves only to force them back down the ladder of equality where once again they can be solely defined by their biological fecundity. Our forced-birther friends know only one date from history, January 21st, 1973 Roe Vs. Wade. They fail, consistently, to see that women’s control of their bodies is the cornerstone of women’s rights as a whole. Chipping away at female personhoood is what these misguided fetus-worshipping individuals excel at. They pine for the days when women were at the mercy of their reproductive systems and enslaved by the patriarchal system surrounding them.
There is no “Golden Age” to aspire to when it comes to women and their rights, the time for action and activism is now, because the counter-revolution is pushing back with unparalleled ferocity. Fuelled by ignorance and religion (redundant I know.) the anti-choice contingent screams for justice for the unborn, ignoring the real living breathing women who do not want any more constraints on their autonomy. Ignoring women is a specialty of the patriarchy, make sure you are smiling while we remove your rights.
The pro-life platform is nothing more than a set of patriarchal shackles for women; why so many women want to get them fitted and locked on again is entirely beyond me.
It is interesting to watch the mainstream media wrestle with feminism and the backlash from the perceived violations of cultural norms. The Guardian blogged a piece called Why is ‘feminism’ such a tough badge to wear?‘ Then the Blogsphere reacted and some thoughtful writing took place and was captured by Slendermeans and thus appeared in my wordpress reader and is now coming to you here and now.
Echidne of the Snakes has broken down the arguments and responded quite succinctly to each in kind, however I think she does a particularly marvellous job of ferreting out some of the reasons why feminists are often negatively identified in our society. I’ve added italics in the quoted material.
“This is the argument that the piece itself mentions:
As Siobhan Garrigan, who studies English at the University of Lincoln, puts it: “Young people don’t want to identify as feminists because there is this man-hating, frumpy, lesbian image forced on us.”
[...], those three accusations don’t have anything to do with each other. The first one states that anyone wanting gender equality must hate men. That’s pretty weird. The second one argues, that women who want gender equality cannot be attractive enough to get men in a system where women are second-class citizens. Only unattractive women would want equality!
That’s illogical, too. Finally, one’s sexuality has nothing to do with one’s desire for a gender-equal society. All illogical, says Echidne.
But squint your eyes a bit, and you see the underlying pattern, what all three of these things share: These women do not try to please men. Or that’s the suspicion of anyone using those accusations. Wanting equality means not wanting to please men. Therefore, women who want equality must hate men, be unattractive or prefer women in their sexuality.”
I’m thinking that the not pleasing men angle is the interesting notion brought up by Echidne (as I think more I realize she’s precisely on target – her observations parallel what I’ve read in Beauty and Misogyny by Sheila Jeffreys so far. Oh, go read B&M asap!). What comes into play is the interference feminism brings to the cultural norms of society. Women are supposed to perform to the expectations of men, those are the expectations in our society. Feminists explicitly do not conform to what is expected of them, thus opprobrium results. Hence we get the homosexual, ugly and frumpy characterizations.
Here lies the danger of letting ones opponents define who you are – women are beset by the misogyny implicit in society, like running a race with and just because of your two XX chromosomes you get a extra forty pound backpack to wear for the duration of the race. Who would want to add to their already onerously full backpack by self identifying as a feminist? The price of perofrming femininity is already so high and it is rewarded, such as it is, in the patriarchy for complying. Choosing to go against patriarchal expectations (not to mention the social conditioning of being passive and accepting) is huge; not playing by the rules disqualifies one from the limited benefits afforded to women within the patriarchal system and exposes women to damaging patriarchal animadversion as mentioned in the quoted material.
Knowing and understanding the insidious effects of patriarchy is half the battle; then one can choose the battleground and know when to take to the field. Unfortunately, patriarchy once seen, cannot be unseen. We shouldn’t fault those who have struck their patriarchal bargain, but should know what it entails.
Tough choice to make, but I do agree with Socrates – “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Gail Dines is a powerful speaker on the topic of Feminism and pornography. Watch and learn folks.
Welcome to what is going to become a DWR reference video. It is going to be step 1 or make that step 1a, step 1 being gong over to finallyfeminism101 and reading, for dudes that want to talk about feminism and equality because as of late (read always) dudes seem to have very little clue as to what the situation in society actually is and how others in society have to act to stay safe. I found this video over at Unladylike Musings along with her narrative of what it is like for women in society, today as in right now, as in the present as in…
It’s fine if you don’t get it or understand it the first time, but it is real and it is happening. I too am tired of the silence.