Jean gives me props for the post two doors down, but deserves her own for this:
The most explicit piece of wisdom was handed to me---when I knew no more about the F-word than the basic popular iconography of the name 'Gloria Steinem'---by my father while he was rebuildling a car alternator and explaining each step to me. I remember it like it was yesterday:
Dad: "Know why I'm showing you this?"
Dad: "Because...you need to know. No daughter of mine is ever going to depend on a man for anything. Because you can't. We can't be trusted."
Dad has a habit of being a bit gruff in his pronouncements. But the point was taken, duly noted from the horse's mouth. I can't trust men. Therefore, I should learn about cars, be all I can be, and not make any rash decisions. Make yourself better, Mom said. Make yourself better because men suck, Dad said.
...Take a breath. Whose advice was better? ‘Do it for yourself’ versus ‘Do it because no one will do it for you.’ It might practically work out to the same thing, but one puts the impetus, the motivation somewhere else. One gives me an Enemy, a very tangible Every(bad)man. Where am I going with this?...[O]ne of those kept bits of wisdom: Don't let people live inside your head rent free.
This is what the Every(bad)man does. He lives there in my head, shaking his Phallus at me, tearing up eviction notices with a twinkle in his eye. "You can't escape me, silly girl! I am Patriarchy! Everything you do---education, career, your choice of sex partners, your wardrobe, your music, your idols---it all has my taint on it, don't you see? I'm in here! It all goes through me! Mwahahahaha!"
Or maybe not. Maybe I kicked his ass out a long time ago. Maybe I stay aware of the damage he did, and remind myself that he’s still out there, and that a lot of other women need help drafting their own eviction notices, and that a lot of other women have already done so. Maybe I remember what my Mom said: find yourself first. Maybe, having kicked out one deadbeat tenant, I'm not ready to let others move in, even if their intentions are pure. Even if they are other women.
It's Feminism, not NotAManism. It's about us, not them. Unless we like deadbeats. Unless we want to admit that Daddy Great Name was in fact the greatest feminist thinker of his time. Greasy hands and all.
And with that said, I'll just add: damn, I wish I knew I knew how to rebuild a car alternator. Work with my hands more in general, anyway: basic plumbing and electricity stuff. Although in my case my feelings of insecurity/ambivalence about self-suffiency probably come more from Mom than Dad, and Mom doesn't know jack about alternators. Which, I won't go into detail right now, but that's another part of the fuel for this: my own experience tells me that women can be plenty invasive, even scary, all by themselves.
Bottom line, and one I was sort of getting at with the Allison quote, although I think I left out the exact passage where she says this more directly: oh, here, this was the key one:
For all of us, it is the public expression of desire that is embattled, any deviation from what we are supposed to want and be, how we are supposed to behave. the myth prevails that good girls--even modern, enlightened, liberal, or radical varieties--don't really have such desires.
(Allison, "Public Silence, Private Terror")
--and to that claim for female sexual agency I'd add: and don't have any deep dark nasty aggressive impulses all on our very own, if I am correctly reading between the lines of some of the patriarchy-blamers' screeds.