Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Seriously - I feel bad when I can't keep up with the big swinging theory discussions. It's a lot easier for me, frankly, to comment on shoes and undergarments and pictures of naked people - things I can see, touch, feel, experience for myself in the immediate material world. I get that shoes and undergarments and pictures of naked people are, in a sense, philosophy made real, ideas formed into shapes and textures I can comprehend with my eyes, ears and fingers - but that doesn't make the philosophy itself any easier to grasp.
So, struggling to make sense of the whole "if you wear high heels The Patriarchy wins" thing, I wrote this paragraph, over at Twisty's :
It’s not really the shoes. It’s not really the clothes. It’s not the ribbons or the bows or the boning or the heel or the random odd sucking of whatever sticks out. It’s how we assign meaning to these objects and actions. And those meanings will vary from person to person, some folks investing them with deep symbolic resonance, others with barely a second thought.
And Witchy replies:
However the individual assigns meaning to objects or actions, or not, the patriarchy has the final say and that makes the assignations of the individual totally meaningless in the great scheme of things.
Well, that's a good point. HOWEVER, this is what I've learned about The Patriarchy's great final say -
It's not fixed and rooted and eternal. It's capricious and whimsical and malleable according to perceived economic and social needs that change with time, location, available natural resources, advances or regressions in technology, the phase of the moon, the direction of the wind.
In the 1940s in America, women went to work in factories. Women were encouraged to make whatever child-care arrangements were necessary to allow them to participate in the War Effort. The Patriarchy loved Rosie the Riveter. Factory work was not just allowable female behavior, it was good and patriotic female behavior. Work if you love America. Stay home and the Axis wins.
At the end of the war, women were encouraged to go home and leave the world of work for pay to men. The world of work for pay was never exclusively a man's world before the WWII, but The Patriarchy would erase the history of women's work for pay in a successful propaganda war that drove women of all classes back home by the mid-50s. Factory work, or indeed work of almost any kind, was no longer good and patriotic female behavior. It was bad, unpatriotic, even seditious behavior, tantamount to treason. Stay home if you love America. Work and the Communists win.
The act of fitting a nut to a bolt took on a different meaning in 1956 than it had in 1946; a different but equally arbitrary meaning. In 1976, maybe things change again, and suddenly it's okay to work on an assembly line again, if you don't mind being called a "women's libber." In 1986 and 1996 and 2006 maybe a woman's assembly line job means something different still - but none of it changes the fact that women were punching a clock in 1936 and 1926 and 1916 and 1906 with nary a peep of accolade nor condemnation from The Patriarchy. Before The War, The Patriarchy didn't give a crap about assembly line girls. During The War, The Patriarchy loved assembly line girls. After The War, The Patriarchy didn't want to know from assembly line girls. But the job itself remained. The girls remained. Some girls even remained on the job, because they took it upon themselves to define it -
Regardless of how The Patriarchy feels about women working in a factory -
"this job means I can feed my family since my husband was shot in the war/left me for some floozy overseas /ain't no good nohow."
"this job means I have independence and don't need a husband."
"I love the plant. I love my co-workers like family. Shit- I just love the assembly line and its rock-solid predictability and the cool hard feel of nuts and bolts and the smell of machine oil."
I'm saying - the true meaning of a job emanates from the job-doing individual, not from outside influences. The consistent and reliable and unchanging meaning of an action derives from its actor.
Of course, one can always change her mind - shit, The Patriarchy changes its mind all the damn time, is my point. The only way to stay sane is to thine own self be true.
And, from the Department of Non-Sequiturs, now is as good a time as any to remind us all that high heels were originally made for men to wear, not for men to admire.
I feel that the meaning assigned to objects and actions by me, by you, by the individual using the object and performing the action, is more important than the meaning assigned to them by this figment of the mass imagination, that which is powerful only because we empower it.
both gov't and industry worked to provide daycare.
another fun thing I learned taking my first college course after my son was born -- history of the family -- was that women were being pulled *and* pushed into the labor force even during the fifties.
Right alongside the government propaganda, there was corporate propaganda to pull women into the labor force because they needed them to full the growing demand for service occupation.
I think what always disturbs me is the lumping of it all into patriarchy. It's not clear that either the state or capitalism consists of a logic that always and only will oppress women.
it's why I won't use the term.
i mean, you've captured it right here: the contradictions. government anti-commie propaganda reinforces traditional gender ideologies, while capitalism is also sending the message that those need to go away.
speaking of all this, I have this lovely piece of propaganda from that ere. it's a cookbook put out by the gov to go along with this radio program, Aunt Annie or something like that. She was alllllll about explaining why women and applies pie baking would save us from the red menace. LOL
Awesome post. I love it, and agree. It's true, men wore heels, the pharaohs were big on eyeliner, the meanings of things change over time, often, and people buying into a lot of it is what gives it power. Just a great post.
"History of the family" - how fucking awesome is that? I want to take that course.
I think if we held more people personally accountable, and raised fewer fists of outrage to a particularly malignant fantasy, we'd make more progress.
What's so fun about these convos is it feels like a massive slumber party some days (and nights).
i guess it's that I'm not sure that capitalism is something that's about men whether someone means that biologically, culturally or whatever.
I'm pretty sure, though, that a radical feminist could still make a good case for still saying it's about patriarchy in so far as it was men who created it. just because women do it too doesn't make it any less patriarchal.
which then is at the root of all these wars we have.
Someone over at punkass -- bellatrys wrote some stuff about sexuality in the 1500s. interesting stuff. i hope you have time to report your homework!
re the hist.of family course. you remind me that, when i sat with my mentor to discuss what course i should take first, to get my feet wet, i was a fairly new mom. that was a big topic of convo. most ppl who went to that school were like me: working,families, etc.
so, he says, since you're a new mom, why not history of the family.
I thought to myself, "oh, cool! this should be cake!"
I did exactly what men and women sometimes do with the courses I'd go on to teach. Oh! cool! Soc of families. that should be cake!
I was a horrible sexist wench!
Meh. I call bollocks on this. It feels to me like more of what Belle's talking about over her place - a reach for Innocent and Blameless Victimhood because you just can't hope to beat the evil empire.
The art of subversion - which it seems to me is what we're all about, here - is finding a way to say "This does not mean what you want to think it means."
"It's none of my business what anyone thinks of me."
When I posted about it on my blog and foolishly left comments enabled, a bunch of people swooped in and told me what a self-centered asshole I was being. Le sigh.
Anbd may I be forgiven for it but I Think it comes from the fact that for many of them satakes aren't as high as they are for women who can't spin around theory into butter or arent so emotionally distant from empathy to not care that behind what they say is another person