Monthly Archives: December 2011

A Happy New Year

I am in need of cartooning skills.  If I had them, this post would look like this:

The Old Man Time 2011 is passing the year to the new Baby Boy 2012.  A woman is intercepting, passing the year to a baby girl, saying “Buddy, it’s time for a change.”  The baby boy is wailing.


The need for new mythology

I watched my first Harry Potter movie last night.  It was the second in the much hyped, very popular series, titled Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

The plot was a re-hash of standard, Western, patriarchal mythology.  The three main female characters in the plot included a constantly crying girl, a smart girl who spends much of the movie in a paralyzed state, and a girl who needs to be saved from the evil doings of a serpent.  The chosen male, Harry, fights the serpent, killing it with a sword that looks much like a jeweled cross.  Over all of this presides the headmaster wizard, who is very Christian god-like with his long, white trailing beard.

Prior to being paralyzed, the smart girl shows herself to be an excellent student who is actually much better with her spells and potions than Harry.  However, it is known by everyone that Harry is simply inherently gifted, destined for greatness.  Encountering the serpent renders her catatonic.  Encountering the serpent renders Harry a hero.

I tire of this.  The same vacuous female characters were presented to me, in other narratives, when I was a girl.  Decades later, girls and women continue to be offered same limited, stunted visions of themselves and their relationship to men and society, as were they presented to women prior to my generation, and on and on.  Then it is posited, by the patriarchal sycophants, that women’s and girls’ imitations of these characters are “natural”—when, in fact, they are deeply acculturated.

I ran a race a couple of weekends ago.  Following the race, teams lined up to get their pictures taken.  A team of college-aged girls lined up in front of the camera, then turned around, bent over with their hands on their knees, and smiled coyly back at the camera.

That’s learned behavior.  It’s born of the mythology of “woman” that is given to girls.


Too fat, too ugly

A homeless man is standing on a street corner with a sign reading:

Too fat and too ugly

to prostitute 🙂

Please help!

He is neither fat nor ugly.  I am also certain he is straight.  A homeless gay man would not advertise his double vulnerability to the omnipresent dangerous bigots.

So the “in” joke—“in” with other, straight but not homeless men—is that he is more downtrodden than a homeless woman, whom men screw before giving cash.  And since there are so many, many men who are willing to screw a homeless woman, she gets more cash at the end of the day than he, the homeless straight guy.

So pity me, he says, with a smiley face on his cardboard sign.  I may be homeless, but I am a man just like you—always at least a rung higher on the ladder of power than women of my own class, always able to joke about the oppression and abuse of women—and that’s where you, the other classes of men in the cars, and me, the homeless man, bond.


Animal welfare model, women’s welfare model: liberation is not the goal

The following is 5-step Animal Welfare Rating that is used by the Whole Foods Market.  Whole Foods uses this rating system so that customers can make informed decisions about animals they choose to eat.

Sitting in the Whole Foods cafeteria and working my way through an enormous vegan oatmeal currant muffin, I read through this chart, which was posted on the wall, and pondered the differences between the animal welfare model and the abolitionist or animal liberation model.  The animal welfare model assumes that humans will eat meat, and therefore the goal is to make the animals as comfortable as possible without compromising the end goal: reasonably-priced, reasonable-quality meat on the plate.

The animal liberation model would make at least two changes in the chart.  First, Step 5 would not be titled “animal centered.”  Step 5 is truly “human centered,” in that the animals are being raised to feed humans.  The animal liberation model would then have a Step 6, which would be genuinely animal centered:  animals would live out their entire lives for their own sake.  They would not be raised to be eaten.  The idea of “farm” would become archaic.

It was a really big muffin, so I had more thinking time.  I started to ponder how as a society we have also adopted a “women’s welfare” model, rather than a “women’s liberation” model for women’s rights.  We accept a similar set of five steps, and we also do not include the additional, ultimate ideal of women’s liberation.

5-Step Women’s Welfare Rating

Unlike Step Five + on the Animal Welfare Rating, Step Five +, on Women’s Welfare Rating denies moving forward to liberation.  Step 5+ is the work of the patriarchal mastermind.  It jams up and skews the progression towards liberation by not only convincing some women that abuse is liberation, but it also puts women in conflict with one another.  We are left arguing with each other, rather than united in the fight for true liberation.

Moreover, just as the Animal Welfare Rating is designed by humans from a human-centric perspective, the Women’s Welfare Rating is completely circumscribed by patriarchy.  At each point, women are allowed “freedoms” only in relationship to how many–or what kind of—“rights” patriarchy is willing to grant.


Saving the women of Iraq

Yesterday, the local paper ran a front page Associated Press story about the end of the official US war in Iraq.  The pictures accompanying the story showed the following narrative:  we invaded, Saddam Hussein was toppled, women got to vote, we now go home.

When the war was gearing up in the spring of 2003, I started collecting war propaganda articles about Iraqi women.  It was clear that the US military machine, and the mainstream media which aids in disseminating military agitprop, was starting to explore how it would use Iraqi women in its game.

One article I saved is titled, Waiting to Kill Americans.  Two veiled Iraqi women, a mother and a daughter, sit in an apartment with AK-47s.  The title is ominous.  Dark women waiting to kill.  But in truth they are simply preparing to defend themselves and their country.

Another article I saved was about prostitutes in Iraq, who were brutally treated under Hussein’s rule.  The article focused on how the American liberation of Iraq would supposedly create a better world for Iraq’s prostituted women.

In Western culture, our vision of women is still focused through the Christian dichotomy of the madonna and the whore.  And through that lens, we found both in Iraq: the darkly shrouded, innocent mother/madonna manipulated in her loyalties by her father/sons, and the whore.  With this vision, American men and women quickly rallied to save the women of Iraq.  Racism, sexism, and stereotypes born of Christian ideology were wrapped up together to sustain the assault on Iraq long after the original impetus for the war faded from memory.

The majority of Americans have never imagined that their image of Iraqi women is a politicized fiction written up by the war propaganda machine.  This is our narrative:  we invaded, tyranny was toppled, women were liberated, we now go home.

Now, some truth:


On colonization and sex radicalism

The colonized are truly colonized when the only path they can see out of their colonization leads to the colonizer’s definition of heaven. — D.A. Clarke

Sex radicals do the pornographers’ dirty work…when women defend pornography and prostitution, they attach themselves to a politics that hates them and negates their existence.  Sex radicals are not rebels…it is radical in every sense of the word when women stand against pornography and prostitution.  — Christine Stark


Jammies Party

This morning, I had a group of women over for a potluck brunch.  It was a “jammies party,” so everyone came in their jammies.  It was like a sleep over, without the actual sleeping over.  I knew only a few of the women.  The other women were new acquaintances, friends of friends of friends.

About half the women left shortly after eating and finishing off their minimum required morning dose of caffeine.  That left five of us, who ended up talking for almost five hours.  We fell into a very important conversation, and no one realized what time it was until I pointed out that the sun was low on the horizon.

This group of five, loosely associated through social connections, had some profound common experiences.  All of us were or had been treated chemically for depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, borderline personality disorder, and/or other mental disabilities.  At least two of the women had been in abusive relationships with men—one had had her neck broken, one had been married to a porn addict—and both of these women had PTSD.  All had struggled with the erasure of emotions and sense of self that was induced by the pharmaceutical drugs.  Four women had experienced profound “side” effects from these drugs, including black outs and inability to walk.  Three women had had profound experiences of abuse by health “care” professionals (“care” must be put in quotes in relationship to these experiences).  For example, one woman was forced to have a pap smear, even though it could not possibly have had any relationship to diagnosing or treating her mental disability.  This triggered a major dissociative episode.

Sometimes, this kind of conversation can put me into a funk.  However, tonight I feel a renewed energy.  Our conversation was not at all like a lethargic support group in which women are dragged through personal disclosure by a professional making a lucrative living off of women’s misery in a violent and abusive society.  Instead it involved an almost covert sharing of information.  It involved stories of will and resistance.  It involved sharing how-tos for navigating the woman-hell that the mental health industry can be.  It involved three women sharing how they were now either completely or nearly off of all pharmaceutical drugs.

It is unfortunate, although predictable, that the mental health industry is collusive with women’s oppression.  As a major institution under patriarchy, its interests lie with maintaining the status quo, rather than challenging or dismantling it.

But as women, both alone and in groups, we resist.


Anniversary

My blog just passed its one-month anniversary.  I have published 20 posts.  I’ve noted signs of addiction.

Is it impacting other commitments in your life?  Yes.  It’s enabling me to continue to perfect the art of procrastination for all those things I really don’t like to do, like house cleaning and shopping for gifts for other people’s holidays.

Do you think about it when you should be concentrating on other things?  Yes.  Not only that, I think about all the other great radical feminist blogs, their energy, their importance.

Are you unable to quit?  I will answer that in classic addiction terms:  Well, I can quit at any time.  I just don’t want to.

Seriously, I am delighted that there is an online community of women articulating and formulating the ongoing framework for radical feminism.  The picture on my blog banner may be a stock photo that comes with this WordPress theme, but it could well be a picture of my driveway.  I’ve never been in a space with more than a half-dozen radical feminists at a time, and then only when I’ve driven across the state.  The last time I was in such a space was almost 15 years ago.

But I will need to apply some moderation.  I am working on a novel and will be starting work in January on a radical feminist anthology with a co-editor.  I also have two big freelance project commitments that will hit the fan in the spring and fall.

So I’ll be blogging and reading blogs less frequently, compartmentalizing it to certain days of the week.  And I will be looking forward to it with the excitement of receiving that really big box of vegan holiday chocolates I ordered last week.


The making of an angry woman

On the day of the anniversary of the Montreal femicide, on the day that I notice that the number one search terms bringing traffic to my site are those looking for women being raped by horses, on the day I come across this on the Radical Resolution blog,

this just makes me angrier.

Go figure.


One of these stories is true

ONE

I was a co-conspirator in mocking my mother.  My father would make fun of how she spoke, especially her folksy use of sayings, her feminine speech patterns, and her use of hand gestures to illustrate her words.  My father was an academic.  My father was better.

There was no power in being a woman in the house in which I grew up.  My father drifted freely in and out of the house, often gone all day even on weekends when he didn’t work.  My mother was home almost all of the time that she wasn’t at her outside job.  And she worked constantly while at home.

My mother dressed up my room in pink, and me, too.  Although I rebelled against the pink clothes and dresses, tossing them aside permanently for jeans and shirts when I was in third grade, my room still had pink curtains until I went to college.  They were cut specifically for the girly shutters over the windows, and without them there would be too much light for me to sleep.  So I left them be.

When my older brother swore, he got scolded.  But my mother would wash out my mouth with soap.

When my younger brother would perversely grope me as I walked by him in the kitchen, my complaints were only met with my mother saying, “Just move away from him.  Then it won’t happen.”  So I took matters into my own hands, and hit him hard each time.  I was sent to my room.

So I found power in allying with my father in his mockery of my mother.  I would join his game.  And he would encourage it.  Together we would sit at the table while she attempted to engage in simple conversation, and we would mock her, interrupting her to repeat with exaggerated feminine intonations what she had said or flail our hands in the air to grossly mimic her gestures.  It would not take much time to silence her.

By high school, I had made a decision.  I would never be my mother.  I would never be the woman who was groped.  Pink, never again.  I wanted the power to move about freely, I wanted the public sphere to be mine.  I would not be a woman.

Four years later, I began taking testosterone.  My very perceptions of the world began to change.  There was a new sexual urgency that had a power of its own that I had never experienced.  The facial hair began to camouflage my femininity.  I was being reborn.  I was surprisingly adept at learning masculine language and mannerisms.  I simply mimicked my brothers and my father.

The day of my top surgery was the most liberating.  I had had my mother’s breasts.  But those were hers, not mine.  After the surgery, when I looked down, I knew that I was finally free of my mother.  I was becoming me.

TWO

I was a co-conspirator in mocking my mother.  My father would make fun of how she spoke, especially her folksy use of sayings, her feminine speech patterns, and her use of hand gestures to illustrate her words.  My father was an academic.  My father was better.

There was no power in being a woman in the house in which I grew up.  My father drifted freely in and out of the house, often gone all day even on weekends when he didn’t work.  My mother was home almost all of the time that she wasn’t at her outside job.  And she worked constantly while at home.

My mother dressed up my room in pink, and me, too.  Although I rebelled against the pink clothes and dresses, tossing them aside permanently for jeans and shirts when I was in third grade, my room still had pink curtains until I went to college.  They were cut specifically for the girly shutters over the windows, and without them there would be too much light for me to sleep.  So I left them be.

When my older brother swore, he got scolded.  But my mother would wash out my mouth with soap.

When my younger brother would perversely grope me as I walked by him in the kitchen, my complaints were only met with my mother saying, “Just move away from him.  Then it won’t happen.”  So I took matters into my own hands, and hit him hard each time.  I was sent to my room.

So I found power in allying with my father in his mockery of my mother.  I would join his game.  And he would encourage it.  Together we would sit at the table while she attempted to engage in simple conversation, and we would mock her, interrupting her to repeat with exaggerated feminine intonations what she had said or flail our hands in the air to grossly mimic her gestures.  It would not take much time to silence her.

Honestly, I never came to love my mother.  For two decades after I left home, I grappled with the complexity of my life and the ways in which my connections to her had caused such injury.  But I also came to richer, more meaningful understandings of the dynamics in my family and the greater power structures that fed it.

When I was in my thirties and my mother was in her sixties, I took her out for lunch.  I apologized for the times that I collaborated with my father in mocking who she was.  I had not come to the conversation with any expectations, and I certainly did not expect to be forgiven.  I just wanted her to know that I acknowledged the wrongness of what I had done.

My mother said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

But her face revealed that she did.  I looked at her and wondered, “Why would she deny this?”  And then I understood.  We were two women, each negotiating and surviving the spaces of our different lives in different ways.  At this point in her life, this was not the time for this discussion. It would not be a catharsis, nor a revelation.  She would choose when, if ever, this would be discussed.

So we intently read the menu and ordered our lunch, and talked about other things.