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Pre-2008 Posts

An End to Gender is an End to Sexism

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In a recent blog post on Comment Is Free on The Guardian, Julie Bindel, in answer to the question, “What is the one thing you would most like to see happen by this time next year?” writes:

Among some Guardian readers I am considered a man-hater. Nothing could be further from the truth. I only despise men who abuse women and children, or who allow that abuse to happen. I would not be a feminist if I did not think men have the potential to grow up as decent, non-violent individuals.

My type of feminism is that which proclaims that women are not inherently good or men biologically bad. If we had the chance to rear children in a world which was not dependent on maintaining polarised gender roles, and where men did not get away with rape and murder of women on a vast scale, we might all have a chance to live among each other in harmony and happiness.

I want to see an end to gender. It has no place in my world.

But to end this tyranny of learned masculinity and femininity, where boys and girls are taught that they should behave in ways befitting of their birthright, we need the oppressors – men – to be the ones who say “enough is enough”.

Like some radical white South Africans, wishing to see an end to apartheid, gave up their power for the benefit of humanity, so should men. You may find that, free of the constraints that masculinity brings, you can live as free human beings. And know at the same time you have contributed to the freedom of women.

It’s simple, really — simple enough that Bindel can state it succinctly and clearly in a comparatively few words.  Gender is about subordination.  Feminism has been, in large part, about ending the subordinating social process which results in what we have come to describe as “gender.”   Ending gender would benefit all people, men and women, because gender hurts us all, but it hurts women most of all.  So ending it is something feminists have historically fought for.

In response to the feminist critique of, and resistance to, gender, conservatives, fundamentalists, and the Religious Right, have intensified their defenses of gender, because they know their ideologies cannot exist without it.   (For evidence of this, read the comments in response to Bindel’s post.)

Ignoring the feminist critique of, and resistance to, gender, others, including LBGT-, Queer-, and transgender-identified theorists and activists have attempted to revision or reimagine gender as neutral, as neither good or bad, as though it can exist “in a good way,” apart from dominance hierarchies.  (For evidence of this, check  out the progressive/leftist/feminist blogosphere.)  Just as conservatives and fundamentalists do, this latter group seeks reimposition of gender, reinscription of gender, just in different ways, with different rules, then calls this revisioned notionof gender “liberating” and “transgressive” and “progressive.” 

It cannot be.  Gender is always already subordination.  In the same way that a violent response to violence, or a coercive response to coercion cannot create a new world, neither can gender revisioned, reinvented, create a new world.  Violence, coercion, and gender are of a piece.  To build a new world, we have to begin the process of leaving all of these behind. 

Gender is real in the world because male power makes it real, but it isn’t “true.” There is nothing “natural” or “essential” about it, whether this “natural” is the conservative/fundamentalist kind of “natural,” i.e., some “naturalness” which resides in notions of “natural law,” or some divine order,  or the liberal/leftist/progressive view of “natural,” i.e.,  a “naturalness” residing in the genes, the DNA, the biology, the hormones, the spiritual realm, someone’s epistemology so-called, or someone’s “narrative.”  All of the above — whether conservative, Religious Right, fundamentalist, transgender, Queer, postmodern, LBGT, progressive,  leftist — are variations on what amount to gender essentialist positions.

There is only one position as to gender which is not essentialist,  and that is the position Bindel has outlined above.  There is also only one position as to gender, I believe, that has potential to adequately challenge and resist patriarchy, male heterosupremacy, in other words, sexism.

Men are not naturally born any kind of way at all.  Neither are women.  If we end gender, we end a powerful, worldwide, millennia-spanning dominance hierarchy and with it, sexism, lesbophobia, homophobia, transphobia and all the coercions of gender which are experienced by men and women alike.   Absent gender, these phobias, and sexism, are meaningless.  They cease to exist.

Challenging and resisting gender is difficult work for one reason:  males have an interest in male supremacy and will fight to protect it, as will females who are attached to males, vested in the approval of males or who are somehow also vested in male supremacy.   At the very least, it seems to me that self-identified progressives and leftists should see and identify this vestedness for what it is:  sexism.  When they refuse to see it for what it is, I have to call that what it is:  sexism.  We need feminism more than ever today because not only are conservatives, fundamentalists, and assorted right-wingers sexist, most liberals, progressives, leftists, and self-identified feminists are sexist as well– and they don’t even realize it.  

Heart

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Discussion

64 thoughts on “An End to Gender is an End to Sexism

  1. I don’t buy this.

    “Gender” is an invented abstraction that anglo-academics kick around.

    To talk about ending “gender” is about as useful as talking about ending, oh, say, the past participle or Abelian groups.

    Feminism is about female fightback. Whatever works *effectively* in that respect is going to get us where we (females) need to go. Go flail away in futility at an abstraction if you like, but I think that something a lot more action oriented is called for.

    Try telling a rapist that what he should really be doing is ending gender.

    Mary

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 19, 2007, 6:46 pm
  2. Mary Sunshine, I agree that feminism is about female fightback. I think, however, that rape is one way men enforce gender and protect male supremacy which is why a rapist is never going to be interested in ending gender.

    The concept of gender, a term which is, I agree, an abstraction, was created to separate biological sex from what is forced on human beings because of our biological sex. We are born female but we are forced to be “women” as it is defined under male heterosupremacy, and one mechanism of that enforcement is rape. Males are born male but can reject being “men” as it is defined under male supremacy, i.e., that category of persons which dominates females, including via rape.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 19, 2007, 7:53 pm
  3. P.S. Although the term “gender” is an abstraction, it includes everything which is done to us, as females, to force us into second class status. That includes pornography, rape, sexual assault, incest, being second class citizens, being forced to present in certain ways, etc. No flailing at an abstraction is necessary; the nuts and bolts of gender are visible, concrete evils which as females we can, do, and must fight.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 19, 2007, 7:56 pm
  4. Right on. Right on.

    Posted by Oni no Maggie | March 19, 2007, 7:59 pm
  5. Male supremacy isn’t a result of “gender”.

    “Gender” is a result of male supremacy.

    *Male* supremacy, *male*, *male*.

    All over the planet.

    People didn’t say “gender”, and then, all independently (culturally) of each other say “and oh, let’s make it *male* supremacy while we’re at it.”

    What, women lost the coin toss 10 times out of 10?

    The really disagreable reality that females have to contend with is that males have been doing this to us all over the planet, throughout recorded human history.

    Not “gender”: *males*

    Men have always raped. They raped because it was in their power to do so. Attributing motives to the first act of rape, or acts, or current acts of rape, isn’t going to get us anywhere.

    Men are only going to stop raping when they can no longer do so.

    Not because of any real or threatened consequences visited upon them by other males. Only by virtue of it’s being a physical impossibilty.

    Now let’s see: how are we going to arrange that?

    Mary

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 19, 2007, 8:06 pm
  6. Heart,

    I agree that *some* women *do* fight various manifestations of male supremacy, but with what success? It’s always an after-the-fact thing.

    How can women possibly prevent incestuous sexual assaults on our daughters, without denying access to those daughters by males? All males, any males?

    “gender” is a very adroit way of not having to put the finger on *males*.

    Oh, now we can be all friendly and happy and *human* together and males will never have to have that dangerous, dangerous, doubt that maybe we don’t love them as much as they *require* us to do. Publicly. Privately. Collectively. Individually.

    Because we didn’t say: men. boys. males.

    Yo! when did “Women’s Studies” turn into “Gender Studies”?

    Guess who did that, under what kind of pressures, and for whose benefit?

    Mary

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 19, 2007, 8:23 pm
  7. Male supremacy isn’t a result of “gender”.

    “Gender” is a result of male supremacy.

    EXACTLY!!

    Totally agree.

    And I do also get, and agree with, your point that talking in terms of gender can obscure the centrally important issue which is who is doing what to whom. You’re exactly right. Gender doesn’t rape, males rape, and when we talk too much about “gender” and not enough about men, raping women, the fact that it’s men, raping women, gets lost in the shuffle. That’s a really good point and I’m glad you made it.

    Having said that, I still think we have to talk about gender, because I don’t think men rape because they are male. I think they rape because they can and they can because of millennia of gendered behaviors which are handed down, taught, which they learn, which they live in the context of, of which rape of women is only one. I don’t think males are doomed to be men, in other words. Just like I don’t think females are doomed to be women, by the patriarchal definition of the term, i.e., sweet, nurturing, deferring, self-sacrificing, maternal, etc.

    I don’t know whether men will only stop raping when they can no longer do so, or because it’s a physical impossibility. In my worst moments, I fear that might be true. But to believe that would be to say that males are born to rape. If I believed that, then I’m not sure I would be a feminist. I think I’d apply myself instead strictly to creating an actual, physical nation for women only. Which is maybe what you are talking about when you ask how we will arrange a circumstance in which it would be impossible for men to rape.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 19, 2007, 8:43 pm
  8. Men are not naturally born any kind of way at all. Neither are women. If we end gender, we end a powerful, worldwide, millennia-spanning dominance hierarchy and with it, sexism, lesbophobia, homophobia, transphobia and all the coercions of gender which are experienced by men and women alike. Absent gender, these phobias, and sexism, are meaningless. They cease to exist.

    Right on!

    More than slightly off topic, but if rape was truly a biological fact, doncha’ think that evolution would have taken care of us by now? Like, perhaps, teeth in the vagina? Or maybe something not so frightful and wild, like a natural, inborn ability to run faster than males?

    Posted by CoolAunt | March 19, 2007, 8:58 pm
  9. CoolAunt,

    Unfortuantely, I think that 90% or more of all humans born throughout history have been born as a *result* of rape. The females impregnated did not have a choice to refuse the vaginal penetration by the male(s).

    Rape is simply the genetic success strategy that is at work in human reproduction. Genetic success strategy is mathematical: it is that behaviour or adaptation that results in dumping a preponderance of those particular genes into the gene pool.

    An uncomfortable afterthought is, that women who were most successful at avoiding vaginal penetration un-bred themselves out of the gene pool. Likewise, the males who were reluctant to force penetration on females who had no enthusiasm for it.

    Mary

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 19, 2007, 9:09 pm
  10. ***Unfortuantely, I think that 90% or more of all humans born throughout history have been born as a *result* of rape.***

    Yet, it doesn’t HAVE to be that way. I think that many women would of their own free will choose to become mothers, so rape may not have been necessary. Even if a woman has no particular desire for vaginal penetration by a male, the desire to have offspring may sometimes act as sufficient motivation. At least that is true of me. And then she would not have to have intercourse anymore. The problem is when the male wants to have her available *all* of the time. Also, some males can’t stand it unless a woman is “screwed.” If she becomes pregnant and she wants him to stay and be a father, then he’s out of there. But if she’s perfectly happy for him to be out of there, then all of a sudden he has all sorts of paternal tender feelings for “his” offspring. Just as long as she’s *not* happy.

    Posted by Branjor | March 19, 2007, 10:20 pm
  11. Recently I read some literary criticism about the Demeter and Persephone myth. Apparently, the patriarchy (the developing myth of Homeric times to justify their oppressive dominance) justified rape as a need to keep things moving. Because if the archetypal mother (Demeter) and the archetypal daughter (Persephone) are not forced to separate from each, everything will become static. Rape is motion. Naturally it was concluded that Persephone wanted to be raped anyway, because if she did not she would not have picked the narcissus to begin with. In other words, the menz (Zeus and Hades) were just helping her find her true desires.

    RMFEs

    The above is not my opinion, simply what I read.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 19, 2007, 10:33 pm
  12. CM,

    Thanks for that. Very powerful symbolism, indeed.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 20, 2007, 12:15 am
  13. Chasingmoksha,

    I have been trying for over two decades to express all of what was wrong with that myth — beyond the simplicity of it presenting rape as nothing to bat an eye over — but that just nailed it utterly.

    That was like remembering someone’s name you’ve struggled trying to remember for an age. Bless you.

    Posted by Heather | March 20, 2007, 12:48 am
  14. I am glad to be of service. LOL! Going back to Greek Mythology, thus distancing myself from present day, hence, away from me as the personal and my friends and family as the personal, but instead analyzing the archetypes of patriarchy as an origin, a root of current day evil, has really been a big help for me to gravitate toward feminism even more than my previous ah hah experiences. Or at the very least, it gives me a model to work from.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 20, 2007, 2:22 am
  15. Recently I read some literary criticism about the Demeter and Persephone myth.

    Discussing Greek mythology from a feminist viewpoint sure is fun. When I was younger, I thought it was always so clear cut that the story was a tragedy about male intrusion and power. It surprised me when I got older and some people didn’t seem to see it that way…

    That brings me to a poem!

    Eurydice by H.D. (Hilda Doolittle)

    Why did you turn back,
    That hell should be reinhabited
    Of myself thus
    Swept into nothingness?

    Why did you turn?
    why did you glance back?

    So you have swept me back–
    I who could have walked with the live souls
    Above the earth.
    I who could have slept among the live flowers
    At last.

    So for your arrogance
    And your ruthlessness
    I am swept back
    Where dead lichens drip
    Dead cinders among moss of ash.

    What was it that crossed my face
    With the light from yours
    And your glance?

    What was it you saw in my face –
    The light of your own face,
    The fire of your own presence?

    Posted by gingermiss | March 20, 2007, 2:48 am
  16. Heart-
    I’m curious what you’d think about the story I linked to above (not my real website). A boy was raised from infancy as a girl, but throughout his childhood, he rejected being a girl although he was never told the truth until he was in his teens. Essentialists tend to use this story to “prove” the “men and women are biologically different”. I’m a radical feminist, so I don’t believe that, but this story has made me think differently about sex and gender.

    Posted by exangelena | March 20, 2007, 2:54 pm
  17. Exangelena, my necessarily way reductive response — because books could be written analyzing David Reimer’s situation — is that lots and lots of children reject what is forced on them in the name of gender. There are lots of females who grow up rejecting being girls. There are lots of males who grow up rejecting being boys. I don’t think rejecting gender coercion can be said to have to do with biology. I am the biological mother of six daughters and five sons, and some of them were raised in the context of a totalist fundamentalist community where gender was rigidly policed as a matter of religious belief. Very, very often, the girls, not only mine, but others’, resented the hell out of this. It was obvious to them, from a very young age, that boys got the better deal most of the time, compared with girls, that dads get the better deal, compared with moms. Rejecting being a girl, in that context, is fighting for your life, even though you may be too little to articulate that that is what you are, in fact, doing. This rejecting is particularly common in families in which a girl has a boy sibling near her age who consistently gets the perks of being a boy. This might have been true of David Reimer, raised as a girl, in the shadow of a male twin, observing the different ways his twin and he were treated. Girls might reject pink and the dolls and so on, not because they hate pink and dolls but because on some level they have made the connection between pink and dolls and subordination, even though, again, they can’t articulate it. Where male children reject being boys, it seems like sometimes this has to do with an abusive father, abusive men in their lives, feelings of fear and shame which cause them to reject what they, even viscerally, wordlessly, associate with abuse.

    Well, there’s tons to say. I just think we can’t draw many, if any conclusions, about sex and gender from David Reimer’s life path.

    I also think Dr. Money was a fairly horrifying, perverse guy:

    David did eventually marry a big-hearted woman named Jane, but his dark moods persisted. He was plagued by shaming memories of the frightening annual visits to Dr. Money, who used pictures of naked adults to “reinforce” Brenda’s gender identity and who pressed her to have further surgery on her “vagina.”

    Dear god, how traumatic was this?! I can certainly see how it could lead to David rejecting the vagina and everything that went along with it.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 20, 2007, 6:23 pm
  18. Wow, I can not believe that some of you give any validity to rape as biological. Rape is NOT biological! It is a learned behavior of patriarchal societies!

    There are matriarchal societies that still exist to this very day(although their numbers are shrinking fast!) that do not have problems of rape and little to no domestic violence.

    http://www.saunalahti.fi/penelope/Feminism/matrifoc.html

    http://www.congress-matriarchal-studies.com/en/index.html

    And there is tons of archeaological evidence that our prehistoric ancestors to include the Jews and Arabics were matriarchal. Patriarchy is only about 6000 years old and brought on by extreme drought and famine to which our species was not and still can not adapt to. Because of the barbarity and force of patriarchal ideologies it has spread throughout the world, but is in no way a natural way of living, especially where drought and famine do not occure. You could say that patriarchy is the first sign of a species descent into extinction.

    Also, the early Native Americans were matriarchal and peaceful. That is where the early womens sufferage movement got their ideas.

    http://www.awakenedwoman.com/iroquois_women.htm

    And last of all, from a biological aspect…very few species on this planet are partriarchal and even fewer rape. Rape does NOT benefit the species! Rape actually goes against evolution and natural selection. Mamalian females choose their mates by pharamones and imune systems. It is well known that females choose males that have a completely different imune systems than their own. What sex did for the species, that become sexual instead of asexual, was help them fight off viruses and bacterias that we come in contact with everyday.

    Biological rape is junk science!
    Amy

    Posted by say no to christ | March 20, 2007, 7:50 pm
  19. Heart-
    Thanks so much for taking the time to read and write back :)

    Posted by exangelena | March 20, 2007, 8:38 pm
  20. I would say more, but this is such a difficult, complex topic and I’m pretty much still – even though I’ve read this story multiple times – just floored by the awfulness and tragedy of it.

    Posted by exangelena | March 20, 2007, 8:40 pm
  21. You’re welcome, exangelena. :) Hey, Amy, thanks for all you’ve posted; I will check out your links. I don’t know much about matriarchal/matrilineal cultures — it’s an area I keep wanting to spend more time studying. I agree with you that rape is not a function of male biology. Men can stop rape.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 20, 2007, 9:56 pm
  22. Heart

    I couldn’t agree more! And sorry for my bad spelling. I think I unconsciously I misspell, cuz I really hate comformity and following all the strict rules of writing just smells to patriarchal to me. lol And I’m too lazy to do spell checks. ;)

    Amy

    Posted by say no to christ | March 20, 2007, 10:11 pm
  23. heh I like this: You could say that patriarchy is the first sign of a species descent into extinction. (say no to christ)

    but I would like to warn against seeing all Aboriginal people as the same. While the Mohawk nation might have been matrilineal and not have gendered pronouns, it’s not the same for all Aboriginal peoples. While First Nations have a fair amount in common, a kind of common world view, if you will, it doesn’t mean they’re all of a piece. Here in the Pacific Northwest, many Nations enslaved people, were deeply patriarchal. Some are an interesting mix of patri- and matrilineal. Just wanted to point it out, as there’s this great tendency to lump all Aboriginal peoples together. /drift

    Posted by Cinder | March 20, 2007, 11:47 pm
  24. Thinking on rape as evolutionarily expedient: I don’t think any life-form evolves to, but rather evolves from. Evolution isn’t a choice, after all. So even while rape is a painful and horrible experience, we wouldn’t necessarily evolve something to keep it at bay (like teeth in the vagina)? I mean, it doesn’t kill us, so we continue to reproduce. There’s this really strong, and usually unconscious, tendency to see evolution as a progression towards more efficiency, better, etc, rather than just genetic change. I’ve done it too, I’m just saying it’s deeply ingrained in the meaning of the word. But really, living organisms evolve merely due to what Mary Sunshine said:

    Genetic success strategy is mathematical: it is that behaviour or adaptation that results in dumping a preponderance of those particular genes into the gene pool.
    …gradually taking over the population. But I would argue that behaviour isn’t ‘evolutionary,’ because it’s not necessarily genetic.

    women who were most successful at avoiding vaginal penetration un-bred themselves out of the gene pool. Likewise, the males who were reluctant to force penetration on females who had no enthusiasm for it.
    But this is based on the notion that rape/raping has a genetic cause. An organism may do something a lot, but that doesn’t mean it necessarily is because of genes. Behaviour can be learned, and in that way passed down through the generations. It’s a little too much like Herbert Spencer in the 19th Century, who argued that men (and by association, Western WHITE men) are more aggressive- thus evolutionarily ‘fitter’- than those other wimpy men because of the Big Man syndrome, where men take women, beat down other men. And women choose to mate with these Big Men because they’re so aggressive and fine. or something. Thus ‘proving’ that men are more aggressive and dominating, and women more submissive due to evolutionary pressure (and, subsequently, Euro culture is ‘fitter’ than those it dominates). So men do what they do because they evolved that way. blah- I think I could explain it better, or more succinctly than that, but not now, apparently.

    I keep coming back to this idea of humans using culture as our primary means of negotiating our environment- that that is what truly separates us from other animals. Other animals also use tools and can sort of have rudimentary culture or language (tho there’s a lot of debate about the latter!). If humans *do* in fact, use culture as our primary negotiating tactic, then practically everything we do is filtered through that instinct. Is filtered through culture, in other words.

    Posted by Cinder | March 21, 2007, 12:11 am
  25. Cinder,

    The only patriarchal Native Americans were the mound builders and James DeMeo does a good job explaining how they got that way in his book ‘Saharasia’. I couldnt put the book down it was so good. It is based off the psycho analysis works of and the studies of indigenous peoples done by Wilhelm Reich.

    http://www.answers.com/topic/wilhelm-reich

    http://www.hiddenmysteries.org/conspiracy/history/saharasian.html

    Posted by say no to christ | March 21, 2007, 3:38 pm
  26. ***I’m not sure I would be a feminist. I think I’d apply myself instead strictly to creating an actual, physical nation for women only.***

    This is stunning. Women who want to create an actual, physical nation for women only are now *outside* of the definition of feminist?

    Posted by Branjor | March 21, 2007, 6:52 pm
  27. Branjor, of course not. The context was whether or not men can, for example, stop raping or whether they are biologically predestined to do so. To me, feminism is about challenging male power, confronting sexism in the world. If male power, sexism, are inevitable and fixed, unchangeable, by virtue of biology, I wouldn’t apply myself to challenging male power or sexism in the world. It would be waste of time. I’d give up on that project and focus on women’s community. Which isn’t to say focusing on women’s community can’t also be part of feminism, of course.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 21, 2007, 7:23 pm
  28. You see how invisible native people are, that we are all just one amorphous group and nothing is known about us that does not come from some new age-y source, which would never consider plonking Irish culture onto Germans. Well why not, aren’t they both white?

    See ya.

    Posted by Pony | March 21, 2007, 7:28 pm
  29. It’s well-documented (well, at least in science fiction!) that progressive societies will probably be made up of androgynous individuals of varying degrees, and that sexuality will not be a factor of categorization.

    I cannot imagine how liberating such a world would be but we are far from attaining that kind of emotional intelligence, I think. We are so socialized by these roles, these ideas… As a majority, we would not know how to begin becoming free from our born gender.

    Today, actually, I’ve been writing about “aggressives” – women of colour who dress in masculine attire but don’t associate with the lesbian identity – in particular, hate crimes involving “aggressives” in Newark, New Jersey. The murder of Sakia Gunn exposes so many unanswered questions about gender’s tentative relation to sexuality, and in turn, the attitudes of heterosexual persons towards people who do not fit exact gender moulds.

    Posted by morgan | March 21, 2007, 7:52 pm
  30. Thank you so much for posting this, because I think you just verbalized how I feel about gender politics/feminism/men in a way that I have not been able to express myself. I haven’t been able to read all of the comments yet, but I did skim them, and I’m really glad that this is sparking some debate in the community.

    Rape is the most obvious and tragic symptom of the much broader disease of male domination/female oppression. I don’t think men are born with the innate desire to rape or hurt women; however, our society teaches men that it is okay to 1) think you are more powerful than women, and 2) exert your domination over them. Will removing the terms of gender from our vocabulary help? No. Removing gender differences might help in some way, but is that even possible?

    My idealistic side wants to believe that eradicating the common ideas of gender would help to change the power dynamics that exist today (between men and women), but my realistic side tells me that it just isn’t that simple.

    Posted by apple | March 22, 2007, 6:51 pm
  31. hey Pony, I hope I didn’t step wrong in what I posted up there about Aboriginal peoples. I try to speak against this objectifying/racist/colonialist ideas and attitudes about First Nations peoples when I see them, but being white, am liable to get things wrong as well. I certainly don’t mean to speak with authority on the subject. It just sounded like more of the Noble Savage trope, and I wanted to try and address it.

    Also, while it is important to recognize the differences in how gender is seen and played out in other cultures, and to see where women had/have more status in various cultures, most of the so-called matriarchies described in those links you provided, Say No, described situations that I would not consider matriarchy. Most of it looked more like cultures where women had some power as well as the men, or, as in one instance (I forget which right now), it was argued about how much influence women had over the men while still not actually holding actual positions of power. And all of these cultures still practiced gender, although one or two were much more fluid about it than us.

    But most importantly, as Pony referenced with the comment about new-agers, these are white folk, mostly, looking at Aboriginal peoples and claiming this or that. And oftentimes (mostly? always?) through the veil of western culture (like the Jesuits! lordy, they would see anything less than complete female subservience as “women in control!!!11!! oh noes!!”).

    Posted by Cinder | March 22, 2007, 9:24 pm
  32. At the IWD conference I attended a couple weeks ago, Jennifer Denetdale (Dine/Navajo), a professor at UNM, mentioned both the Cheyenne and the Pima cultures as being patriarchal, and that in one of them (I forget which, I apologize) women’s noses were cut off for adultery. (What happened to the adulterous men was not mentioned.) So as Cinder and Pony are saying, it is not possible to make sweeping characterizations of very different cultures across an entire continent, and certainly not based on the work of white men.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | March 23, 2007, 5:45 am
  33. Well, I’ll step out on a limb and say that rape is inherent to biological maleness.

    I think that at least one male (and I suspect it would actually be far more) out of every new generation, even when not submerged in a culture that actively encourages it, would end up raping people. He’d do it for the same reasons that assholes throw spitballs in movie theaters despite living in a culture that does not actively encourage it. Namely, just because he can. Just because he has the equipment to do so. Just because the pleasure of an orgasm is entirely independent of the screw-ee’s consent.

    For as long as the human race is saddled with assholes, and as long as some of those assholes have penises, we will always have rape. Because that’s what assholes do. They use whatever is at their disposal to make others miserable, usually in a way least costly and inconvenient to themselves.

    Posted by justicewalks | March 28, 2007, 12:06 am
  34. Cinder no you did not offend me in the least. I just was supposed to be working that day. :) Iwas more or less saying I wasn’t going to be around for your response. And look here I am days later before I check this thread. Sorry for that.

    I am a learner too. All these nations have their differences. I only know mine, and not well either, because native people have lost their culture, and are attempting to reclaim it.

    This is true of more than native though I know. In NA most whites are three or five generations away from a European town or farm. And those who came here, mostly were escaping something. Lots of people don’t know their history. Who was grandma? Where was she born? You mean, she came her all by herself at 14?

    Posted by Pony | March 28, 2007, 1:09 am
  35. Sounds like an interesting conference Amy. I’m not surprised about what you heard. You’ve been doing some fun stuff lately. Keep up with the movie reviews.

    Posted by Pony | March 28, 2007, 1:10 am
  36. You may be right, justicewalks–but I think one random idiot is MUCH easier for a society to deal with, through ostracizing, banning, exiling, restraining, or even killing, than living in a culture where a majority of men think there are excuses for raping women–even if they personally never take advantage of those excuses in their own behavior.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | March 28, 2007, 1:43 am
  37. Amy’s Brain Today:
    You may be right, justicewalks–but I think one random idiot is MUCH easier for a society to deal with, through ostracizing, banning, exiling, restraining, or even killing, than living in a culture where a majority of men think there are excuses for raping women

    I’m not so sure about that. Given that I actually think it would be far, far more than just the one rapist, I think we’d soon end up right where we are now. Sadly enough, I think it would be women who’d be expediting our regression. Can’t you imagine the defensiveness of the first woman whose son had been accused of rape? “I never raised MY son to be no stinkin’ rapist. You won’t be “ostracizing, banning, exiling, restraining, or even killing” MY boy and if you do, it’ll be over my own dead body. And besides, that tramp should just be grateful we don’t live under a patriarchy in which she’d be almost guaranteed to be raped rather regularly.”

    I honestly believe that it is only because women love men, their sons, their brothers, fathers, uncles, friends, that we refuse to take the necessary steps to defend ourselves against innate male violence. Yes, men take advantage of this love and lord it over us in the form of misogynist patriarchy – but women honestly need to wise up and realize that each and every man on the planet is a potential rapist. Seriously. Including the men you love. Especially them.

    Posted by justicewalks | March 28, 2007, 11:31 am
  38. Justicewalks,

    I’ve been saying exactly what you have just said, for *decades* now.

    Women would far rather reject women who believe (and know) as we do, than ever reject men.

    If *one* man might possibly be innocent, then the next generation of women can bloody well suffer, rather than him.

    Women love to cling to fantasy. Even I do. I continue to cling to the fantasy that women will some day rise up in solidarity with each other, and take *collective* action to reject males.

    I’m tired of futile protest.

    Posted by Mary Sunshine | March 28, 2007, 1:08 pm
  39. I have heard this belief in the essentialist nature of male violence before. However, my feminism depends in large part on a belief that men behave that way because it is permitted, encouraged by the power structure, and if it were not, they would behave differently. If I did not believe men could behave differently, I would be advocating for far different solutions–and therein lies the problem my friend Elliott pointed out in one of her wonderful articles about the trouble with identity politics–what to do with oppressor identities? It’s pretty difficult to think about “getting rid of” men if they are inherently violent, because who’s the next oppressor up against the wall, come the revolution? WHITE WOMEN. Yep. And frankly, I’d much rather believe that I can overcome my dependence on white privilege and white supremacy to create a peaceful egalitarian world with women of color rather than that I was born to dominate because of the color of my skin–but, given the behavior of most white women, why should WOC believe that of me?

    I’d much rather focus on organizing with women to demand that men change, and to hand down real consequences (on an individual basis) if they don’t. If, after a suitable period of female solidarity, they don’t change, then it might be time to contemplate genetically-based arguments.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | March 28, 2007, 3:40 pm
  40. about the trouble with identity politics–what to do with oppressor identities?

    I don’t think anybody has an “oppressor identity” though. I think some people are members of classes which oppress, but the members of those classes can’t be assumed to have oppressor “identities”. Identities, as understood by those who practice identity politics, are assumed by people groups in the interests of fighting our own oppression (talking now about political identities, identity politics, not talking about gender “identities,” the other, very different queer/pomo notion of identities). Once an oppressor class is against the wall in a material, real way, and can no longer oppress as a class, the need for identity politics, in that instance, is gone. The fact that an oppressed person identifies politically with an oppressed class doesn’t mean individuals in the oppressor class have oppressor “identities.”

    To view an oppressor class as an oppressor class is not to view its members, each individually, as being an oppressor, or as having an “oppressor identity.” Britta covered this really well in her report on the anti-porn conference where she talked about class politics as an understanding that everything that the members of a class do affects ALL the members of the class. I don’t think it’s accurate to say, though, that everything that the members of a class do IMPLICATES *each* member of the class.

    The idea that oppressed persons cannot differentiate or make distinctions between our friends and our enemies who are members of the oppressor class sells oppressed persons short. We know our oppressors very well– far better than they know us. I think as marginalized people, we can understand that everything an oppressor class does hurts us, while simultaneously holding in our minds the truth that some members of the oppressor class are indeed our allies. In other words, I don’t look at individual members of oppressor classes as having the “identity” of oppressors. I look at them as benefitting from, and vested in, the privilege their class enjoys. When that privilege ends, their benefit ends and the need for any identity politics to resist the oppressor class also ends.

    If the revolution should come, and the rule of men should end, I don’t think white women would be up against the wall next, and don’t even think about that, am not concerned about it — because I think it’s men — all men — who are the ones putting white women and all women up against the wall right now, in all the ways and for all the reasons Justice Walks set forth this morning in her post to the Confederate flag thread. I think if the rule of men should end, racism would also end, classism, class hatreds of all kinds, because these other dominances are weapons men enlist in the interests of maintaining their own dominance. There would be, iow, no need to put anyone up against the wall if the rule of men should end.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 4:04 pm
  41. Mary Sunshine, I’m tired of futile protest too. Unfortunately, I think it’s all I can sanely look forward to in my lifetime. I think you summed it up beautifully when you said: If *one* man might possibly be innocent, then the next generation of women can bloody well suffer, rather than him.

    Amy’s Brain Today: I have heard this belief in the essentialist nature of male violence before.

    The only thing I was essentializing was that people who have the equipment to rape, will. If women had penises, they’d be raping people too. And I think the parallel you draw between maleness and whiteness is somewhat strained. Aside from the fact that they are inborn characteristics, there are no similarities. It’s not as if white people are going around assaulting people with their white skin. White skin (or any color skin for that matter) doesn’t exactly make for an intimidating weapon. Penises on the other hand…

    Posted by justicewalks | March 28, 2007, 4:14 pm
  42. It’s not as if white people are going around assaulting people with their white skin. White skin (or any color skin for that matter) doesn’t exactly make for an intimidating weapon. Penises on the other hand…

    Exactly. The penis is where the weapon is. Racism is about hierarchicalizing the owners of the penises (as is classism, ableism, etc.). Once the penis can no longer be used as a weapon, the hierarchies to shore up that particular usage become meaningless.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 4:22 pm
  43. Exactly Heart.

    There lies one of the biggest problems with identity politics. What one identies as and what identity others assigned to that one often does NOT reconcile. And often, depending on what the agenda of one’s point of view, one takes precedence and smothers the true identity of one or part of the whole.

    I feel like nothing, NOTHING, negates my existence more than the assignment I receive by others. Which is another reason why I think the individual movement, which is often demonized and often scoffed at, needs resurrected. Some how, the whole exaggerated self-esteem derailed the individual movement, thereby helping the status quo remain the status quo.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 28, 2007, 4:25 pm
  44. Penises on the other hand…

    Along with physical strength. Unless the assumption is, the bearer of the penis will be the one with the most physical strength. Because to me, as long as there is strength differences something other than a penis will be used to brutalize. The penis will become no more important than any other body part.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 28, 2007, 4:29 pm
  45. I don’t know, chasingmoksha. Other body parts, used to brutalize, don’t have the effect of making women pregnant, passing along STDs, which is part of the physical strength/overpowering equation, or certainly has been historically.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 6:27 pm
  46. At the risk of begging the question and sounding like an MRA (major problem there), a vagina can spread an STD. Granted perhaps not from vagina to vagina, but let’s say the penis is passive and not violent or oppressive, the vagina still has that capability. Just as a vagina cannot get pregnant without the penis, the penis cannot pregnate without the vagina (speaking clearly in the terms of physical contact, not the invito venue, etc).

    What I think I am saying is, the penis is only a weapon because of the physical strength of the penis bearer, the force, the willingness to use that force, the willingness to use violence. Without that willingness, the penis is no more of a threat than a vagina.

    But perhaps this is already understood and is why I questioned it. Maybe I am splitting hairs, and symbolically penis=violent force.

    Also, perhaps I am splitting hairs because of something I read a week or so ago in one of the threads about the Michigan fest. Something along the lines that it was a lesbian only affair and heterosexual women are only there by invitation only.

    This is a problem I know. For one heterosexual female tends to be the majority in society. Conditioned to be so or otherwise. Therefore, I understand that lesbians would want a space of their own. However, there is something there that I do not think is “morally” right. I used the word moral in the sense of human fairness, more specifically female fairness.

    Perhaps I am really really splitting hairs. But in a way, it seems that the heterosexual woman is not welcomed, or maybe not trusted. It almost seems that the heterosexual woman can only be expected (stereotyped) to only be interested in male/female issues. I think, I know, I can love a woman, have a woman’s issue at heart, and participate in womanness (I am lost for a word) apart from my heterosexual existence. Some how it ties in with my annoyance with Oprah having to announce that she can love her friend Gail without being a lesbian. It annoyed me to no end. First, because of the lesbian phobia aspect and second because of the lack of trust that society seems to have with women. That women cannot love truly, love another woman and have women’s issues at heart unless sex is involved.

    Sorry for the long comment. I am realizing that many are annoyed with long comments. I have always rebelled against what I judged the sound bite method. Maybe there are some redeemable qualities to the short and sweet.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 28, 2007, 6:51 pm
  47. Hey, chasingmoksha, I’m only aggravated by long posts if the posts are aggravating! Yours does not qualify. :)

    Re the Michfest comment, my comment was much harsher than Michfest, or almost any lesbian I have ever known, ever is or would be! I was making the point to PG that the festival *is* lesbian and that it’s open to het/bi women by invitation only to make the point, stress the point, to PG, that there is such thing as a marginalized group known as lesbians, and that there is such thing as herstoric lesbian culture (which in the age of “Queer” some lesbians reject but that is a different topic for a different day), because too many people don’t realize this, don’t think about it or want to think about it, and especially people who attack the Festival. PG acknowledged she didn’t know the Festival was a lesbian festival. There’s a reason for that and it’s lesbian invisibility, which is a whole ‘nother thread.

    I don’t think the day will ever come when the festival would not be open to het women or bi women. Fest is the most welcoming place I’ve ever been, to all girls and women (and little boys, too, under 10). And het women aren’t just provisionally welcome, either, they are welcome with open arms, nobody’s asking, nobody’s paying attention, it’s not an issue at all. Trust me. :)

    Some lesbian women don’t trust het women, it’s true, and that generally has to do with het women’s attachments to men, and the way their loyalties to men supercede their loyalties to women, including lesbian women, (i.e., loyalites to husbands, sons, family members, especially). Having said that, my experience is, lesbians recognize women who are committed to women, whether they are het, bi, lesbian, or none of the above. There are PLENTY of lesbians — let me emphasize PLENTY — who are NOT committed to women and do not put women’s interests first. This latter is more true in the general culture, by far, than at Michfest, which is very woman-centered and where in general, women do put women first (which is something no Festie wants to change, EVER, and is a huge reason for the policy, but again, there are plenty of het women who put women first, lots go to Fest, and there are plenty of lesbian and bi women who don’t put women first and most of them do NOT go to Fest because it’s a put-women-first kind of a place. May I again say plenty.)

    And yeah, I agree with everything you say there about Oprah and her friend Gail, how aggravating was that debacle, and the way committed relationships are equated with sexual relationships. That’s one reason for my love for Sonia Johnson. She wrote a very interesting book, The Ship That Sailed Into the Living Room, written when she was probably in her late 50s, where she talked about this fixation we have with sex and the way that when we say someone is our “lover”, what we really mean is that that person is our “sexer” and the way our culture expects us to put our relationships with our “sexers” first and foremost before all other relationships. And why? Really. Why. Why is that. When in fact, other relationships can be far more intimate, far more committed, can continue on for a lifetime even as our “sexers” come and go, and so on.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 7:06 pm
  48. Along the lines of what force is and how males use force and their penis as a weapon, coercion (talking her into sex, wearing her down about sex and all forms of coercion), is a form of force and is used to rape.

    Males do not have to be brutal in strength or even identify as men to use their penis as a weapon and to rape. Most of us know that, but I thought some readers may not draw the parallels, so I am saying this for them.

    Posted by uppitybiscuit | March 28, 2007, 7:08 pm
  49. I don’t think the day will ever come when the festival would not be open to het women or bi women.

    One important reason for this is, there are a lot of apparently het women who are actually lesbians, but they are closeted. Fest is safe haven for them. The Festival has always protected attendees identities for this reason– doesn’t allow picture-taking without permission, etc.

    The thing is, too, the point I’ve made before and sort of did in my comment to PG, was, if lesbians decided the Festival was to be lesbians only, het and bi women would be expected to honor that, but more importantly, we all know they WOULD! They would not act out of that arrogant entitlement we see in the anti-policy contingent.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 7:23 pm
  50. Heart says:”And yeah, I agree with everything you say there about Oprah and her friend Gail, how aggravating was that debacle, and the way intimacies or commitments are equated with sex.”

    Maybe males cannot consider any intimate, committed friendships with females that do not include sex, that some males marry women in order to have access to sex on demand/at will, and that their exposure to what a girl is, what a woman is, from an early age is more sexualized and less humanized that there is a social expectation that has permeated society that close relationships must involve sex.

    Posted by uppitybiscuit | March 28, 2007, 7:24 pm
  51. Along with physical strength. Unless the assumption is, the bearer of the penis will be the one with the most physical strength. Because to me, as long as there is strength differences something other than a penis will be used to brutalize. The penis will become no more important than any other body part.

    I think we agree. I was using the penis as a proxy for maleness to highlight the ineptitude of a comparison between the essentialism of sexism and racism. If we take maleness to include possession of a penis, along with the accompanying hormonal influences and relatively superior physical strength, then I think it is clear that male domination, most effectively enforced with the omnipresent threat of penile violence, is innate in a way that white domination is not.

    I will say, though, that while sex dimorphism is a biological fact, I think a great deal of the effects of sex dimorphism are cultural – in that women are forcefully encouraged to pretend as if they have NO strength or physical agency instead of a proportionally smaller quantity of it.

    Posted by justicewalks | March 28, 2007, 7:28 pm
  52. Maybe males cannot consider any intimate, committed friendships with females that do not include sex,

    This is certainly my experience! :/

    The only friendship I have ever had, that was a close intimate friendship, with a male, that didn’t eventually get around to the male initiating sex, was a relationship I had in high school with a boy who, as it turned out, was gay! By the time I was 20 I had sworn off any “friendships” with males because I had never been able to have a single one that didn’t eventually get around to the man wanting sex.

    I do think that the idea that intimacy/commitment equals sex is heteronormative, i.e., for men, having a “relationship” is about having sex and children; if there is no sex, not so long ago, that was “grounds” for divorce.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 7:31 pm
  53. I will say, though, that while sex dimorphism is a biological fact, I think a great deal of the effects of sex dimorphism are cultural – in that women are forcefully encouraged to pretend as if they have NO strength or physical agency instead of a proportionally smaller quantity of it.

    Right. There are a lot of women who are bigger and stronger than a lot of men and there always have been. Women, if they’d banded together, could have resisted male dominance. They still could.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 7:34 pm
  54. Along the lines of what force is and how males use force and their penis as a weapon, coercion (talking her into sex, wearing her down about sex and all forms of coercion), is a form of force and is used to rape.

    Uppity, I am aware of this and most certainly agree (and know the list at your place -thank you-and biting beaver’s very well). I consider the coercion of speak, blackmail, etc as much of a brutal force as the physical force. However, similar to verbal abuse vs. physical/sexual abuse, mainstream society does not. Actually, I was never physically raped in the military. However, I do feel like I was raped (mentally). And now in a time that it seems that more people are receptive to hearing about it (in light of the Iraq female veterans) I do not think I should discuss it because they were physically raped and I was not. However, I do believe I suffered PTSS from my ordeal in the military.

    Heart
    Thanks for the response. I think it has helped me connect what I was trying to develop. More later when I come from school. Just quickly. I have been trying to connect the disconnect between the “types” of feminists.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 28, 2007, 7:36 pm
  55. I’m reminded of a quote by Andrea Dworkin: “Have you ever wondered why we are not in armed combat against you? It’s not because there’s a shortage of kitchen knives in this country. It is because we believe in your humanity, against all the evidence.”

    This is women’s weak spot collectively, and the one men exploit over and over to keep things as they are.

    Posted by therealUK | March 28, 2007, 8:46 pm
  56. Oh btw, Amy interesting piece in your link there.

    Posted by therealUK | March 28, 2007, 8:54 pm
  57. Amy: It’s pretty difficult to think about “getting rid of” men if they are inherently violent, because who’s the next oppressor up against the wall, come the revolution? WHITE WOMEN.

    This has been nagging at me, and I’ve finally realized why. It brings to mind the way men seems to sometimes fear feminism, something like, that if women ever get a chance to get them up against the wall, we will, so better keep the lid on us, or something like that. When the truth is, generally speaking, women aren’t chomping at the bit to get men up against the wall. We want to live our lives on our own terms, by our own lights, without having to deal with sexism. We want to live without oppression on the basis of sex.

    In the same way, there’s a fear component of that line I quoted there, Amy, that troubles me, something like that people of color are just chomping at the bit to get white women up against the wall, once men are out of the way. I don’t think that’s so– I think people of color want a world in which they do not have to deal with oppression on the basis of race and that this is the objective and the concern, as opposed to finding someone to blame and punish. In the same way that for us as feminists, most of us could care less about finding men to blame and punish; we just want sexism to end.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 10:34 pm
  58. Thinking more, and sorry to serially post, the reason this kind of thinking bothers me is, something like, men should stop being sexists or else women will throw them up against the wall, or white women post-feminist-revolution should stop being racist or people of color will throw them up against the wall. The focus is on the men and the white women there, and their either blame or fault or best interests or fears or something like that. When in fact, the issue is, sexism needs to end so as women we can live the lives we have a right to live. Racism needs to end so people of color can live the lives they have a right to live. It’s about women, it’s about men and women of color, it’s not *about* men or *about* white women. To frame it as though it is tends to get in the way of focussing on what matters most, which is the realities of the oppressions themselves.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 10:43 pm
  59. Sorry, but this is just troubling me.

    Amy: It’s pretty difficult to think about “getting rid of” men if they are inherently violent, because who’s the next oppressor up against the wall, come the revolution? WHITE WOMEN.

    Even if men were inherently violent, how would that have anything to do with white women? Or are you saying something like that if all women got men up against the wall because the theory was, men are inherently violent, then women of color would get white women up against the wall because… white women are inherently violent? I can’t see that that theory would fly. Whiteness isn’t a physical or biological characteristic, even.

    Maybe I’m just not understanding you– probably not!

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 10:59 pm
  60. Just read the article Heart. It’s not my idea, it’s Elliott’s, from her PHD thesis, and she spent a lot of time developing it.

    Posted by Amy's Brain Today | March 28, 2007, 11:21 pm
  61. Amy– I read the article when you first put it up, but had difficulties with it (though it’s been a while now and I couldn’t be specific without going back and re-reading) that I’m having with what you posted there. Really though, I’m considering your words, what you wrote, not what Elliott wrote.

    Heart

    Posted by womensspace | March 28, 2007, 11:24 pm
  62. justicewalks, I missed your comment earlier. Yes I think we agree. I just wanted to be sure I understood why everyone was saying because I know I am one of those people that someone mentioned yesterday who throws a word out there and expect everyone to know “MY” meaning. LOL.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 29, 2007, 12:55 am
  63. Not “why”, it should be “what.” Sorry.

    Posted by chasingmoksha | March 29, 2007, 12:56 am

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