Saturday, 26 April 2008

Patriarchy (part 1)



[
Edited to add (05/01/2008):
I was just trying to mean "a withdrawal from reality into fantasy" by using the word 'schizophrenia', basically, BTW. I didn't mean using that word in any kind of offensive way, but I can understand why some people would get upset by it. I think I was somehow searching for a word that would describe, metaphorically speaking, the way I felt about patriarchy and its social influences on people and so that was the word I came up with. However, I now understand that using the word 'schizophrenia', even in a metaphorical context, may still seem offensive to some people but I'm leaving this post as it is so that the following comment thread (containing reactions to my usage of that word) makes sense.]



It is something we're living in. Something that is ever-omnipresent. We live and we breathe in it.

There is not one single hour, not one single minute, not one single second, without it existing.

It is what this world is ruled by. It is also what underlies the oppressive system that is called capitalism, among so many other systems of oppression. It is what is at the root of all systems of oppression as a matter of fact, whether political, economic, social, sexual, emotional, psychological, etc.

Yet, it is not visible to most people living on this earth. And that is the most painful part: it not being acknowledged as (still) existing by most people.

I used to to be amongst that majority of people. I used to be ignorant of its existence. I used to believe that we were somehow "post-feminism", that women were now equal to men. . .

. . .until that day. That day I "woke up" and noticed it. The oppression of women and girls. I saw it raw, undisguised, inhuman and also searing, distressing, upsetting, heart-breaking.

It had been there all along. I just hadn't noticed it. The oppression of women, the unfair system keeping them as a class in a position of inferiority to men, had been there all along. I just hadn't noticed it before because it had been hidden, somehow away from public view and pushed more toward the private sphere in people's lives.

In this patriarchal world, I walk around the streets, places, my workplace, my home or my college and I see all those people not knowing that patriarchy (still) exists.

Sometimes I find myself fidgeting, worrying, walking back and forth, wondering "When will people (especially women) will ever see it is there?". On the other hand, I absolutely don't blame them. I used to be in the same position as them, i.e. not knowing it is there.

Most of the time, the only moment I get peace in mind is when I sleep so I don't have to think about it then, as it's haunting me.

It's haunting me like remembering the voices of ex-boyfriends who abused me.

There is something I remember Gail Dines saying at the end of one of her speeches when I was at the Wheelock College anti-pornography conference in March 2007. It was:

"We are very, very close to losing it all. There is a point at which it is very hard to pull back on. What's going on in environmental destruction is very similar to cultural destruction. There is a point where it is over. People are too robotic. They have lost what it means to be human and they are thoroughly colonized by the corporate pimps. This has to stop. We have to fight back. It is not in my nature to play dead. I will fight to the last breathing word. And you will have to join in, because unless we do something, there is nobody else who is going to do it."

I'll say, it is not in my nature to play dead either. I am here and I will speak and carry on speaking.

Let me talk about that private sphere in people's lives.

In it, most men are watching a certain kind of images to which they masturbate. And those images are mainstream, popular in male culture.

In those images, women are portrayed as being worthless "fuck-objects" who are being degraded, humiliated, roughly penetrated in every possible way, choked, bruised, slapped, handled callously, hurt, ejaculated upon, etc (the list goes on) while they are also being portrayed as either saying they enjoy all these things being done to them or eagerly seeking all this kind of insensitive and debasing treatment.

The day I noticed those images in a way I had never noticed them before, I saw the oppression of women raw, undisguised, inhuman and also searing, distressing, upsetting, heart-breaking.

Those images, among other things, made me notice how much I was living in patriarchy.

Similarly, the day I paid attention to the fact that my abusive ex-boyfriends had often been using those images and I connected the dots, I saw how the ways I have been oppressed had been enforced by patriarchy.

Patriarchy is a totalitarian and reactionary oppressive system. It colonizes us as women. It trains us to "please men", to be "sexy" by fitting male-defined "feminine" roles and appearances.

Patriarchy is not inevitable. The root cause of patriarchy is gender socialization, i.e. what it means to be "masculine" and what it means to be "feminine" and how we are trained to "fit" those constraining and constricting roles.

Patriarchy is also what engineered these environmental and cultural destructions that Gail Dines mentioned.

Patriarchy is what makes people become too robotic, what makes people lose what it means to be human.

Patriarchy is the state of schizophrenia. Now, by "schizophrenia", I mean to speak in the figurative sense, NOT the literal one.

"Schizophrenia", metaphorically speaking, to me, means a withdrawal from reality into "fantasy", a refusal to engage with reality.

I have chosen to be wide awake. I have chosen to refuse living into the "this-isn't-happening-we're-post-feminism-women-are-now-equal-to-men" fantasy realm that patriarchy wants to keep us asleep into.

But because patriarchy is the state of schizophrenia, the few people who are fully awake are (metaphorically speaking) accused of being "schizophrenic" as they notice this oppressive system.

What I mean by that is that most people on this earth who cannot see the truth, i.e. that we live in patriarchy, accuse radical feminists and pro-radfems of "talking nonsense" or "not knowing", etc (the list goes on).

I have chosen to face reality and firmly hold onto my humanity, even though most people say that the reality I see is somehow "not reality".

I can see patriarchy. It is deeply entrenched within our society. Sometimes, I wish I were able to alert all women and girls out there that we are living in this male-supremacist system.

I wish I could tell them all about the risks we take within patriarchy, how much we have been so perniciously trained, socialized, brainwashed by this male-supremacist system and that we are very close to losing it all.

Unfortunately, radical feminism gets little or no malestream media attention, unless to be misrepresented, vilified and lied about by liberals and members of other political wings.

As a rad fem friend of mine said, I don't believe it is because radical feminism is somehow "wrong" or "evil" or anything like that (as detractors would have us believe).

It is rather because radical feminism is so revolutionary and progressive that it is threatening not only to the patriarchal status quo but also to every single other political faction that calls itself revolutionary or progressive while expecting to preserve the same basic unfair hierarchies.

In this world we're living in, I walk around the streets, places, my workplace, my home or my college and I KNOW that patriarchy still exists and is ever-omnipresent, dangerous, ominous.

I can see the oppression of women raw, undisguised, inhuman and also searing, distressing, upsetting, heart-breaking.

I can see that women are not perceived as human beings by many men.

I see women being objectified by many men and this inhuman objectification being perceived as commonplace in this soon-to-become completely robotic society.

As I'm firmly holding onto my humanity in this patriarchy we're living in, I can see so many forms of abuse happening and all the proofs that those horrible things are happening.

Because I am wide awake and have chosen to face reality, it is painful.

But I am glad I know about the fact that we still live in patriarchy as it makes me able to speak out about that fact and all the harms and oppressions that patriarchy caused, causes and will cause.

It is not in my nature to play dead and I will not withdraw from reality into fantasy.

Like other radical feminists, I seek the abolition of patriarchy.

The oppression of women now occurs in their personal lives and I believe that the personal is political.

The unbearable patriarchal system has to be stopped before it's too late. We have to stand up, speak out and fight back.


Postscript: Dunno when I will write "Patriarchy (part 2)" but I will someday. . .

15 comments:

hexyhex said...

Patriarchy is the state of schizophrenia. Now, by "schizophrenia", I mean to speak in the figurative sense, NOT the literal one.

"Schizophrenia", metaphorically speaking, to me, means a withdrawal from reality into "fantasy", a refusal to engage with reality.

I have chosen to be wide awake. I have chosen to refuse living into the "this-isn't-happening-we're-post-feminism-women-are-now-equal-to-men" fantasy realm that patriarchy wants to keep us asleep into.

But because patriarchy is the state of schizophrenia, the few people who are fully awake are (metaphorically speaking) accused of being "schizophrenic" as they notice this oppressive system.


Hrmm...

I do appreciate the clarification, and I see what you're attempting to do with your use of the term "schizophrenia". I gotta say, though, I'm still not comfortable with it. Schizophrenia is such a heavily stigmatised illness, and one that's horribly misrepresented and misunderstood in media and common perception. I personally despise the use of the term in any way that implies a deliberate choice, a refusal to see reality, or willful blindness. Schizophrenia isn't something you do when you don't want to see the truth, it's a crippling and debilitating illness. You don't wander into fantasy, you get stuck in a nightmare. Big difference. It's also not something you can choose your way out of.

*sigh* I know we've got a hell of a long way to go to try and reclaim the language of mental illness when anything wrong or irrational is labelled "crazy", but I do hate to see feminists using language in this way.

I noticed you didn't publish my last comment, incidentally, so it may seem odd that I'm commenting again. I completely respect your decision to moderate me, but thought it was worth commenting again as you seemed to have at least taken my words into consideration when composing this post. I do appreciate that, and your expansion of your meaning in this post, even if I still think negatively of your choice of that particular word. Thanks.

Maggie Hays said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maggie Hays said...

Hexyhex,

I published your new comment (even though I don't agree with your pro-"sex work" politics and see prostitution as a for of exploitation -- but that's a totally different matter).

And it is true that I clarified what I was meaning in my new post (considering your first comment that I hadn't published but thought should be addressed).

I'd like to make it clear to you that I absolutely do not mean stigmatizing anybody. Gosh, no! A member of my family (I'm not saying which one) has schizophrenia (literally).

But I had looked into a dictionary I have at home and part of the definition of the word 'schizophrenia' said "...whose symptoms a withdrawal from reality into fantasy". That's why I thought I could make some kind of a figurative metaphor of the word.

I'm sorry I'm still pretty new to the blogosphere and still trying looking for my words.

But I'd like to let you know that I absolutely did not mean to annoy any body in making a metaphorical analogy. I was just trying to mean "a withdrawal from reality into fantasy", basically.

I was NOT talking literally. I just wanted to express the way I feel in this patriarchal world (as I believe that people who uphold the status quo are somehow "withdrawn into fantasy").

Didn't mean to bug you with my words, (I have known schizophrenic people myself both in my family and my boyfriend's family and I wasn't talking about that= I was talking metaphorically, not literally) sorry.

hexyhex said...

Ha... now we see the problem with cross-posting! We now have a double conversation going on.

I do appreciate your publishing of my comment, and I like knowing a dialogue can occur between people who may not agree on everything when it is necessary. As for my blog, I tend to publish most comments, although I reserve the right not to.

I believe you didn't intend to stigmatize, annoy or anything else, and I'm saddened but not overly surprised to hear your life has been touched by schizophrenia as well. There are far more of us than is at all fair. I just think that the label itself is still too stigmatised and misunderstood to be used in a context like that without both confusing the message and unintentionally wounding or upsetting schizophrenic (or other mentally ill) people who stumble across it. I don't think that's a side effect that can really be ignored or dismissed, at least if one is attempting to keep one's space relatively safe.

I guess what I'm saying is that trying to re-establish a meaning for a word that you're using for dramatic effect, but that refers to a marginalised and horribly stigmatised group of people isn't necessarily easy, even with clarifications. Anything that attaches more negative implications to the diagnostic label isn't helping.

Personally, my goal is for everyone who meets me and knows my diagnosis to interpret it as "Wow, she must be damn tough!" rather than "Wow, she must be dangerous/unstable/batshit insane." It's not an easy thing to live with even without the shit other people attach to it.

Maggie Hays said...

Hexyhex,

I'm saddened to see you're having personal problems.

I glad that you know that I didn't intend to stigmatize, annoy or otherwise.

I was only talking metaphorically and I may have not used the right word and I'm sorry you took it so literally or personally...

What I was trying to say, I guess, was a metaphor, an analogy but, as I said, I'm still pretty new to the blogosphere and still trying to look for my words.

Thanks for pointing that out... Didn't mean to shock... Sorry...

pisaquari said...

IBTP for loaded words and media mis-characterizations of mental illness.
So I guess this post was more accurate in attacking the P than the author realized!
:P
It happens.

hexyhex said...

It's a personal problem that's been around for a while, and will likely be around for the rest of my life. I'm actually one of the lucky ones. *shrug*

Thank you for being so understanding about my concerns. Metaphors are tricky things like that.


pisaquari said...

IBTP for loaded words and media mis-characterizations of mental illness.


I wish I could! I blame fear of the misunderstood, which unfortunately appears in all humans. It is true, though, that a patriarchal society has no motivation to seek to educate its members about the truth of mental illness.

Maggie Hays said...

"It is true, though, that a patriarchal society has no motivation to seek to educate its members about the truth of mental illness."

I agree, Hexyhex. It is also true that the whole language itself was invented by the patriarchy, so we (women) sometimes get lost in expressing ourselves in the language.

A theory that came from a feminist writer called Mary Daly said that "Men have the power of naming. Women have to reclaim that power, even if that means re-inventing the language."

And thank you for understanding that I did not intend to hurt or annoy anyone and also that metaphors are tricky. I'm glad we had at least that minimum level of understanding of each other despite our opposing political approaches regarding prostitution.

Take care, Hexyhex!

p.s. to other readers: Only leaving this clarification here in case a passer-by reader here doesn't know this acronym= IBTP stands for "I Blame The Patriarchy" by the way.

hexyhex said...

A theory that came from a feminist writer called Mary Daly said that "Men have the power of naming. Women have to reclaim that power, even if that means re-inventing the language."

I have read some of Daly's work. I disagree with her on many things, but she has some amazingly powerful things to say on the history of misogyny in language and culture.

And thank you for understanding that I did not intend to hurt or annoy anyone and also that metaphors are tricky.

I don't generally think poorly of people's motivations until given ample reason to do so.

I'm glad we had at least that minimum level of understanding of each other despite our opposing political approaches regarding prostitution.

I'm glad we had this exchange. Dialogue between people who may not necessarily agree on everything is important. I appreciate that you have been open to discussion.

Take care, Hexyhex!

You as well :)

Maggie Hays said...

Thanks, Hexyhex. :)

Judy Best said...

Folks who do not recognize global patriarchy’s misogyny are inclined to wring their hands and ask, “what were they thinking to … [publish some new example of misogyny as hateful image against womankind, be it porn, adverts or T-shirts].” Instead of asking “how could they,” we can all decide to see, as Maggie has, as I have, as Andrea Dworkin did before us. (Would those women who read and are moved by the truth of Dworkin’s words be disparaged as “Dworkinites” if oppressors and tokens were not trying to shame other women away from reading Dworkin’s truth about misogyny?)

To see the truth, spend ten minutes online. You no longer need to pay to see the degradation. Check out some online porn (woman as holes for penetration, to be taught a lesson of punishment by male violence). Free to men worldwide, online, you'll see the truth.

In the scale of public persuasion, where pictures say a thousand words, the violent-porn-hatred of the worst of men against all women is trumping feminist sensibility and normalizing masochism by women (just another form of misogyny). The fundamentalist religious types come out against porn, but push another form of male supremacy in the name of an exclusive Him-ness and male leadership. 180 degrees from sick is still sick.

Violent porn’s power in the male mind as anti-woman propaganda is confirmed by media attempts to normalize porn as harmless fun. Recent popcorn movies, for instance, falsely make porn seem like a happy romp in the adult play room where nobody gets hurt. The Bank Job, for instance, set in London, a major market, features a gently likeable male character as a porn-film actor whose filmed exploits put him between two laughing, buxom belles. Drillbit Taylor, set in LA, shows a Santa Monica freeway-driving mom giving an attractive young male bum a buck with instructions to the effect, “not for food, buy some porn.” As if porn is no more than bouncing bosom laughter for immature dudes who need a positive vibe.

Outside the movies, in major-market LA, publicly funded sculpture features the woman's torso (punching bag) without head, limbs, feet and hands in Venice, CA, a “progressive" stronghold, Beverly Hills and UCLA (in the name of art). There is no equivalent public sculpture of a headless, legless, armless male torso, breast and penis on display. Tell that to the pomo and sex-pozze brigade next time any of them tell you we’re past gender as problem.

Men in charge know. They simply lie about what they know they’re doing. They call it art or free speech in the system of patriarchy they made and they maintain. (And, yes, of course hierarchy in patriarchy pits some men against other men, but in terms of gender, all but token or compliant women are the enemies of all patriarchal men.) Make no mistake that men run their own game and do not intend to change. Otherwise, they would never keep it going.

Women are so innately powerful that only by culturally oppressing us as gender caste to the point of soul-shattering trauma can the patriarchy stay in charge. Violent porn is one powerful tool of cultural oppression, perhaps the most powerful agent against womankind as a whole because it materially infects the minds of men, meme-style.

Porn focuses less on sexual “fun” than on bondage of women, punishment (“discipline”) of women, roping, raping, cutting, spitting and splitting, mouth-anal-vaginal penetration by three men to one woman, gang banging, choking, gouging, branding with hot irons, and every day, newly devised ways to hurt women proliferate online. A ten-minute online survey will show you the truth, and set you free. Freedom to see what they were thinking when they published that latest hateful image takes the "hard" out of facing global misogyny.

Wherever we live, we can join together in the best of all intentions to end patriarchy and its chief sacrament, porn. Metaphysical practitioners use the tools of consciousness to change outward circumstances. What could it hurt to follow that lead, our own way, to cast out patriarchy from our own consciousness, and claim cosmological power instead to live and love, in freedom and dignity. It’s not religion, but a form of spiritual protest by consciousness, to invoke the infinite energy. Or if you want to use an image from women’s spirituality (and the culture of India), what would Kali do? Erase porn, replace patriarchy, restore womankind. Empower us to live in happy peace. We can join together in this best of all intentions, all around the globe. Freedom for womankind, a meme of our own.

Maggie Hays said...

That's a very great interesting comment you've made, Judy! :)

Lara said...

http://www.nydailynews.com/news/ny_crime/2008/06/12/2008-06-12_brave_torture_victim_will_be_back_in_cou.html

Well looky, an asshole male who's acting out all of his fantasies. What he did to that woman makes me shudder and want to cry.

Sounds similar to the description Judy Best made about porn:

"Porn focuses less on sexual “fun” than on bondage of women, punishment (“discipline”) of women, roping, raping, cutting, spitting and splitting, mouth-anal-vaginal penetration by three men to one woman, gang banging, choking, gouging, branding with hot irons, and every day, newly devised ways to hurt women proliferate online. A ten-minute online survey will show you the truth, and set you free. Freedom to see what they were thinking when they published that latest hateful image takes the "hard" out of facing global misogyny."

Anonymous said...

hello Maggie,

just wanted to show my support with your stance against pornography. I fully agree with you on that.
I wonder what your opinions are though about another patriarchal industry branch that most women even embrace, which is..gynecology ?

Maggie Hays said...

Anonymous,

I wonder what your opinions are though about another patriarchal industry branch that most women even embrace, which is..gynecology ?

There is no doubt that medicine (as it has been co-opted by men) is a patriarchal institution. And there is no doubt that women are socialized to 'embrace' those things.

There is a small herstorical book Witches, Midwives, and Nurses: A History of Women Healers by Barbara Ehrenreich and Deirdre English that is a compelling introduction to a feminist study of our medical system and it is a well-researched book. It explains that women have not been passive bystanders in the history of medicine and other things. There have always been female healers. The witches (who were hated and killed because of the misogyny of the Church) were women healers and the pioneers of the analgesics (painkillers). Few people know that though (See Dworkin's chapter on The Witches in Woman Hating).

For an excellent resource on radical feminist viewpoints on various subjects (notably male-supremacist medicine), please visit the Feminist Reprise site:
http://www.feminist-reprise.org/

Also, I once read an interesting article on 'labiaplasty' (which IMO women do in order to please their porn-loving partners who pressure them into "having a better 'body image'" in a pornified culture, if you know what I mean) from the NY Times (malestream media):

http://www.nytimes
.com/2004/11/28/fashion/28PLAS.html?ex=1259384400&en=
0d49428121489fb0&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt
(a link I had to break twice as it wouldn't fit in the comment section - please re-attach spaces -omit them- when copying and pasting in your browser).

Also, many gynecologists are male, which is rather a bit scary and makes me feel uncomfortable.

Sorry I cannot be more helpful on the subject. In the resources I gave, you might find more. I hope this helps.

just wanted to show my support with your stance against pornography. I fully agree with you on that.

Thank you so much for your interest and for your support. :)