Saturday, March 25, 2006

In other words: yup, yup, yup.

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?"
Me: "
Dad: " 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.


Jean said...

Thanks for the shout. : )

fastlad said...

But if there's no totem to dance around, and no effigy to burn, who's going to want to come to my bonfire?

Huh, huh?

belledame222 said...

fastlad: that's why Goddess created marshmallows.

fastlad said...

OK, I'm sold.

But then we have to talk to each other and stuff. And you know that there communication thang can get awfully tricky. Why can't we just rail against the patriarchy the way we used to?

You really are an old sly boots. I mean how dare you suggest that burning witches or burning patriarchs is in any way damaging and counterproductive? And how dare you intimate that there's something sublimated and sexual going on here because clearly there isn't. We just want our orga-revenge-excuse me-catharsis, thank you very much.

Just shut up and pin the tail on the donkey. What could be more wholesome than that?

fastlad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
fastlad said...

I'm taking liberties, I know; how like a man. Isn't that what patriarchs do, though? Take your liberty? To be yourself, to express yourself. That won't happen in the New Age when the Natural Order is restored.

I'm quite sure of that.

Veronica said...

I've been thinking about this one for the last few days (and I'm reading these entries like I said I would.)

My grandmother (who gets presents on Father's day as a half-joke because she half-raised us, when all the Dad's dissappeared or were restraining ordered) was like that woman's dad in a way... She's very much of that "fish needs a bicycle" mindset and right at that Friedan age. The proud man-hater.

But, I don't 1.) hate men, or 2.) think that "Railing Against the Patriarchy" is the same thing as Railing Against Men. It's more like "Railing Against a Laundry List of Shitty Assumptions."

Anywho, sexual agency:

I don't pretend to know what other folks get off on or don't. Like, I said in that other post, "It's all fun and games until someone loses an eye." What I meant by that is that people are gonna do what people wanna do. But, if they wanna do something that's sexist, is there anything wrong with calling it sexist? Why should an act get a free pass on sexism because it's sexual? Since when does sexuality get a "Theoretical Critique Pass?"

I guess I can see the slippery slope argement a little bit--some folks might think it's only a few steps from "Critical" to "Lobbying to Outlaw?" Is that he problem?

belledame222 said...

It's one problem. And it's not been a theoretical slippery slope, either, as I plan to post about soon.

My problem with what you'd posted on your blog, veronica, specifically, was in saying that you'd never be convinced that BDSM was good for *women.* (emphasis mine). Well, and before that, what I saw as an oversimplification and misrepresentation of what sex-pos feminism is (although, as with radical feminism, there are proponents who fit the stereotype better than others; and people who aren't particularly predisposed to it in the first place are naturally less inclined to dig around for nuance). Anyway: there are a lot of assumptions being made, here, all-'round.

But, for now:

You don't have to be convinced. Certainly not that BDSM (or whatever) would be good for you. And sure, your observations on what you've seen and what you've done and what you think are always welcome here.

But, you don't speak for all women. I'm a woman (too). BDSM, and the kink/sex-pos community in general, has been good for me. My experience is not everyone's experience; neither is yours. Neither is anyone's. It's not just semantics. This stuff matters. I really don't like feeling like my voice and experience or desires are being dismissed or subsumed. Particularly in the sexual arena. This is not a new feeling for me. It's very old.

The bulk of this particular rant, veronica, had to do in with my irritation at the het-centric nature of the argument, as I've seen it on the feminist blogosphere of late...and even and especially from women who, like me, are gay. Because the dynamics of het porn or stripping or "sluttiness" (for instance) do *not* automatically translate into how it plays out among gay men...and neither translates into how it plays out for gay women...and none of these address the damn-near-nonexistent niches for the genderqueer among us.

Which is not, by the way, me saying that het porn or BDSM is bad while queer porn or BDSM is good.

But as a woman who desires other women, I do get awfully tired of having men, even hypothetical ones, dragged into discussions about my sexuality. Particularly when it's done *by* a man; I've had the dubious pleasure of being lectured by several earnest little Dworkinite boys now, *on feminist boards,* about how he knows alll about patriarchy, and womens' sexuality! including mine! and therefore is in a place to tell me all about it, a scoldin' and a hectorin'. Which, no, I don't *think* so.

Veronica said...

I am sorry that I dismissed and subsumed your experiences.

I've run across a lot of discussion on heterocentricity, lately. But, I don't know how to respond to it. I've got more thinking to do.

I can identify very, very much with the "dismissed and subsumed." I have been told repeatedly that my opinions on sex don't get to count because I've been abused, and therefore I've got Hang-Ups that prevent some sort of Total Liberation that I've been told all women my age should have. And, that frustrates me a lot. I know that's not the same as being queer (and I so don't you to think I'm equating homosexuality with abuse, because really that's not what I mean!) But, it is what it is--getting told "Your abnormal and your opinion doesn't count" sucks. So, again, all apologies.

And, I had no idea that "little Dworkinite boys" existed!

belledame222 said...

Accepted. And, who told you that your experiences/feelings didn't count because you've been abused?? That's incredibly fucked up, and whoever said that needs a sound ass-kicking. No, really, that's bullshit. And abusive in its own right, frankly. Yuck.

The Dworkinite boys (one more ubiquitous than others; the others I've mainly seen in the lj communities) are pottering around the larger feminist blogs. Not gonna name names now (I'm over it, mostly), but you'll probably see references to him/them/it elsewhere in this blog (and others). Mostly I think it's a bad case of obnoxious choad-ism with a thin political overlay. (There's a lot of that about, sadly: people using ideology to prop up or bolster more fundamental emotional and/or social problems. and/or, in this case, a sort of "undoing:" there are also the white allies that somehow seem to talk more than anyone in black spaces, and know everything, and the middle-class neo-Maoists who downwardly mobilize and go on and on about the superiority of the Workers and the evils of the Bourgeoisie, and...)

I should add here: was referring to my own rant a couple of doors down, of course, wrt the het-centric thing. I think Jean accurately teases out and puts her finger on a separate, perhaps larger strand I hadn't quite pinned down for myself: my problem with using the frame of "patriarchy" as THE overarching frame to understand sociopolitical oppression. Or, one of them. That is a bit separate from the sex-positive thing, though, I think, albeit not unrelated.

belledame222 said...

should further add:

v, you're not the only one who'd said words to that effect; I'd been hearing similar sentiments quite a lot, recently. hence, rantiness.

belledame222 said...

further addendum re Jean's take on this: perhaps an even more fundamental line here, which makes me think (as I often have done, since) of a UU minister's sermon:

What you put your energy into is what you worship.

So while it's important to fisk and deconstruct and criticize, sure, and while we all, or most of us, need to have our "fifteen minutes of hate" (tm Bitchlab via Orwell of course), ultimately...where do you draw the line between patriarchy-blaming (for instance) and partriarchy-reinforcing? Because negative reinforcement is in fact still reinforcement, as we learn in psych.

And while blaming on the internets may not do anything concrete to uphold or take down the real world infrastructure, any more (or less) than say what one does in bed-- as Jean said: if it's truly so all-pervasive, the Patriarchy, why give it further rein by allowing it unlimited rent-free space in one's head?

n.b. I am addressing myself here as much as anybody. slightly different focus for rantiness, but same effect.

once on the BBS I cut my virtual teeth on, there was a particularly egregious troll, all the more insidious because he was one of the "polite" ones. Didn't swear or use strong language, much less outright slur words, was very careful not to insult anyone personally, used his "pleases" and "thank yous..." and yet I (and I was far from alone in this) found him far more offensive than any number of blatant flamers, even the bigoted ones. Basically it turned out that he was from a proselytizing Catholic website, in fact *worked* for it, although he swore up and down that his religion had nothing--nothing! to do with his insistence that homosexuality was wrong because it wasn't "open to life" (classic RC and lately evangelical buzzword), nor was birth control, and...basically, the Compleat 'Bot. Absolutely no signs of engagement on a human level.

His arguments, such as they were, were fun and easy to shred mercilessly from a thousand different directions (even though he himself gave no sign of recognizing that any such had happened, of course), and since he *was* a homophobic fuckwit with no redeeming signs, I let myself go to town, much to the entertainment of my fellow posters (and vice-versa). And some interesting side discussions happened, as they often can do from worthless trolls. The pearl forming from the irritating sand speck, don't you know.

After a while, though, I had become a teeny bit obsessed, as I am wont to do.

And so it was that after a particularly long and impassioned deconstruction of his latest polite spewing, which of course no one on that board had had the slightest inclination of buying in any way shape or form anyway (if they had done then it would have been different), a friend of mine said,

"You know, a person could have an awful lot of gay sex in the time it takes to argue with [homophobic fuckwit]. Just sayin'."

He was right, dammit.

Bitch | Lab said...

"But as a woman who desires other women, I do get awfully tired of having men, even hypothetical ones, dragged into discussions about my sexuality. Particularly when it's done *by* a man; I've had the dubious pleasure of being lectured by several earnest little Dworkinite boys now, *on feminist boards,* about how he knows alll about patriarchy, and womens' sexuality! including mine! and therefore is in a place to tell me all about it, a scoldin' and a hectorin'. Which, no, I don't *think*"

Thank you for articulating this for me in a way that I can't always manage.

There is something you said the other day, in comments, about just loving ourselves and sometimes how there's an absence of that.

I remember saying something like that when I first came across Biting Beaver. Where is there any love of women here?

Where are we talking about what women want and what women desire, in all their varieties, and doing so in a kind of consciousness-raising way where we're just learning, "look, these are the things I like,"

Someone on a blog, a new group blog of feminists that I can't find, said something about how, as a butch, she loves to see her gf dress up, put on make up and do her hair. She's was beating herself up for thinking like that and I thought, why?

I want to post a comment but I refrained: no time.

Something you said awhile ago also made me laugh. Oh, yes, there's plenty of fetishism of women's bodies, there's even an age thing for some of us. For a long time, I thoguth we just weren't supposed to talk about it. Because it's, you know, a priori bad to enjoy one another's looks.

Veronica said...

"And, who told you that your experiences/feelings didn't count because you've been abused?? That's incredibly fucked up, and whoever said that needs a sound ass-kicking."

Oh, it's not a single who. It's fairly common. I've talked to other women about it, and it's not just me, either.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the shout. : )