Bitch | Lab picked up this intrablog conversation that we'd been starting to have. I'm reposting my answer here, lightly edited for context, because I've been meaning to address this for a while:
As long as we’re examining hidden influences of institutionalized sexism (i have declared a personal moratorium on the word “patriarchy”)? Stuff that I think came up in the BJ Wars (what did you do in the War, mommy?) in spades: the conformist thing. That is, men are vulnerable to it, too, but with a lot of women (obviously not all, and there are other subcultural influences that can counter, but) in this culture, there is this thing that is taught where we must please the other, be nice, be a “good girl,” get along. Don’t get angry; don’t confront; don’t get the other person mad at you.
The patriarchy-blamers concentrate on the ways in which women are taught (overtly or covertly) to please a Man/Men, and that’s certainly valid; it’s there, no doubt. But it isn’t the whole story.
It’s sort of related to what we [conversation between B|L and me] were talking about viz whether it was as fun to flame women as it is men, on the whole; the observation that often, men tend to be able to get into heated debates and then come right out of it as pals, go get a beer; whereas with women, more often, it seems to be more fraught, just disagreement, any disagreement seems more fraught. I think it’s because of that early conditioning. And it’s also why when we do get into fights, it can seem uglier, more charged. Because there’s all this backed-up stuff–I mean, aggression in general, competitiveness.
That’s it, isn’t it. This is another area where the radfem thing has a blind spot. Because besides buying into a lot of the good old-fashioned sex-negative crap, it also buys to a certain degree into the notion that women are “nicer,” I think; hey, we’re not the rapists, we’re not the serial murderers, we’re not the ones who start wars, blahblah. There seems to be a lot of investment in this (yes, it’s true, but why is it true is the question; with radfem ideology there often does seem to be this unacknowledged essentialism, as B|L and others have noted).
So, a posit, if you will: it’s okay to get angry, even aggressive, but only at the approved targets. Which, by the way, as a technique for authoritarian movements, works real well: it’s the two-minute-hate thing. “Let’s you and me get angry at Him/Them.” Because it's a controlled, "safe" outlet for a fuck of a lot of tamped-down, highly charged stuff that's been festering for a while.
Ah, but disagreement in the ranks? Confrontation with an ally? Danger, danger Will Robinson: we might die.
Which contributes to the “you’re either fer us or agin’ us,” imo.
And that part isn’t limited to this kind of radfems, I note. The creepy sexual shaming, that was new for me among so-called feminists and lesbians (tell me, how was this any different from a clique of high school girls standing and giggling and pointing at that slutty girl who wears the torn fishnets and micro minis and you know what they SAY about her, psst psst giggle psst).
But, like, in the Dyke Drama group, I noticed: okay, we’re not bending over backwards to conform to the image of Cosmo and please a Man; but we *do*, many of us, seem to be bending over backwards to please and fit in in other ways. It was a leftie thing as well as a woman thing, I think, but: Either way, the message remains the same: don’t be selfish. Don’t put yourself first.
So instead of dropping everything to rush home and make dinner for the hubby and kids, it’s dropping everything to go help another collective member in an outer borough paint her apartment (when you don’t even know her that well); or joining endless task forces; or volunteering for this and that and the other until you drop. Smile, weakly: “Oh, no, that’s okay. I don’t mind.”
The word “no” comes in handy in a lot of situations, y’know; it’s too bad that (many of) the radfems only seem to be interested in applying it to dirty men with their icky sexual demands.
And then, too, as B|L and Arwen and others noted: some of us are more invested in what other women/feminists think because we care more about what other women/feminists think. Screw the men; it’s not about the men; it never was about the men. What about us? Damn, this sucks.
Finally, I will posit that for many of us (obviously not all), in fact the person who’s had the most influence on us and with whom we’ve had the most complicated emotional relationship, the most investment, the most…is not some faceless Patriarch or even the husband/boyfriend, but rather dear ol’ Mom.