Tag Archives: patriarchy

Jerking off

I rarely enter into the world of the sitcom.  However, I do check in occasionally, as it is a way to monitor the status of our pornified culture. Today, I watched, back-to-back, the first two episodes of ABC’s Work It.*  The show is a triumph of “sex-positive” feminism and its ideological love affair with patriarchy.  Alternatively, it is a triumph of patriarchy over feminisms of resistance.

The following is one snippet.  Here, the wife-mother laughs along with the husband-father as he jokes about masturbating in the bathroom to pictures of women whose only consent is that they are simply women.  (In rape culture, being a woman is considered consent in itself to be objects of men’s sexual release.)

Woman/wife/mother:  “Say, Lee, why do I keep finding my women’s magazines in our bathroom.”

Teen daughter: “Oh gross, Dad. Get some real porn.”

(canned laughter)

Man/husband/father:  “No, no, no!  That’s not why….okay, that’s why.”

Wife:  “Seriously?”

Husband:  “Yeah, there’s some pretty hot stuff in there.”

(canned laughter)

Wife:  “Oh, really, this does it for you:  (reading from magazine)  How to minimize your broad back.”

Husband (eyes closed, faking ecstasy):  “Oh, yeah, baby, say it slower….”

(wife laughs—canned laughter)

The daughter, however, is not yet as sex-positively enlightened as her mother, and reflects a more traditional—and equally problematic—perspective.  She only wants her dad to masturbate to pictures of prostituted women.  She, like her mother, accepts dad’s predatorial sexuality, but desires that it be focused on a specific class of women—one that does not include her.

What a great new comedy.  I laughed and laughed.

(put canned laughter here)

_______________________________

*I was also curious about Work It for its mock “trans” plot line.  Those aspects of the show are also extremely problematic, on so many levels. 
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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.


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.


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.


Mother-in-law

My former mother-in-law so loved her sons.  She had pet names for each of them, by which she still referred to them even when they were adults in professional careers.  There was The Smart One, The Handsome One, The Strong One, The Creative One.  The perfect quadrumvirate, “the boys.”  They adored her.

Her husband called her mother, as if he were a son in an incestuous affair.  And he did adore her, too.

They adored her so much, that they kept her all to themselves.  Driving, this she was not allowed to do.  A mandate of the father, uncontested by the boys.  Walking out on their country road, this her husband eventually granted, as it made her slimmer and better to look at.

One day, she sighed, and left the house, telling her husband she was going for a walk.

It was a bright day, sunny, spring and warm. Unwitnessed, she walked into the path of an oncoming car.


The making of a man

My brother’s transition from boy to man was marked by fierce and deliberate verbal assaults on his mother.

“You’re a cunt,”  he would scream.  “A fucking cunt!”

These assaults went on into his twenties.  Then they stopped.  Not because he regretted the assaults.  But because his entitlement was now secured and did not need constant reinforcement.

Now, ten years after her death, he only speaks of her fondly.


The great pharmaceutical conspiracy

I have a conspiracy theory.  It goes something like this.  The psychiatric industry and the pharmaceutical industry have an adoring bedfellow: patriarchy.  Together they are a powerful, misogynist menage a trois.  True, like all patriarchs, they sometimes do some caring, helpful things for women.  And there are also members of the system who work within to challenge it and truly advocate for women.  But, as a whole, as a system, mind-affecting drugs and those who wield them are a threat to women’s identities and minds and threaten our abilities to break free.

Years ago, I decided I would need some assistance with depression.  I made an appointment with a psychiatrist.  I was given a set of questions, from which it was determined I had two forms of depression and two types of anxiety, including PTSD.  Without any discussion of what caused my depression and anxiety, I was prescribed two drugs.  I declined the second one.  My reasoning was that it would be difficult to assess the efficacy of either drug if they were interacting with each other.  Let’s try one, and see what it does.

This was the first of a long push against the psychiatrist, who over the next two years would have liked to have put me on five drugs.  During those two years, we never discussed the meaning of my depression (depression has meaning).  We only discussed my “mood” and any adjustments to the drug I was taking–and her ongoing recommendations for more drugs.

I had very valid concerns about these drugs.  These were mind-altering drugs.  They affect the very processes of the brain.  They re-write you.  As I read about the additional effects of these drugs (misleadingly called “side” effects in the literature), I envisioned myself in a drug-induced passivity.  A malaise.  I wasn’t going there. I just wanted a bit of help with the depression while I worked out as many non-drug ways of improving my life.  I did not want to become a victim of the legal drug cartel.

In a world of justice, a first psychiatry appointment would have a significantly different questionnaire than the one I was administered.  For example, for anyone in a partnered relationship, it would include questions such as these (feel free to suggest additional questions):

  • Do you feel safe in your own home?
  • If you have children, do you feel that they are safe in your own home?
  • Does your partner use pornography?
  • Has your partner ever coerced or forced you to have sex?
  • Has your partner ever coerced or forced you to have a kind of sex with which you are not emotionally comfortable or that was physically painful?
  • Has your partner ever told you to shut up?
  • Has your partner ever denied you an opportunity to seek or take a job that you desire?
  • Has your partner ever denied you an opportunity to continue your education?
  • Do you have control over your own finances?
  • Are you able to leave your home whenever you choose?
  • Have you ever been forced to bear children?
  • Has your partner ever denied you the right or punished you for spending time with other women?
  • Has your partner ever coerced or forced you to have sex with someone else?
  • Has your partner ever prostituted you?

Then a long discussion of any of the questions to which the person answered “yes” would follow, including direct conversation about rights and choices, and an action plan would be implemented, before any consideration of prescription of drugs took place.  Then it would be mandatory that there would be home intervention.  Divorce or final separation would be discussed, and even encouraged, and would not be considered a violation of ethics to be discussed.

To bust patriarchy, we need to tackle it at its roots.  We can’t do it if we are drugged up wind-up toys.