Saturday, December 30, 2006

 
and another thing -

as I drape my heavy arm around the shoulders of the blogosphere, and breathe boozily into its ear: you know how I really feel? let me tell you how I really feel:

there is no patriarchy.

rape there is, humiliation there is, institutionalized racism and sexism and horrific crimes of mind-numbing sexual violence - yes, all exist, and flourish, in ways that defy logic and sanity.

but patriarchy? as real as the tooth fairy, as santa claus, as a flat earth. as real as God.

men don't go to special heaven when they die. they're not handed some great big envelope stuffed with Privilege tickets upon their birth.

men thrive, and women choke to death and die on the vine, because somehow someone somewhere convinced men that they were born to thrive, and women that they were born to choke. but it's not real. it only looks real, like the earth looked flat for so many hundreds of years.

The Patriarchy is a dream of men, a vast shared delusion of mankind, of humanity. it's not real. the benefits of patriarchy, or patriarchal approval, are illusory at best. better food? more money? more independence? more prestige?

even so, as Ann Bradstreet said "adieu, adieu; all's vanity."

acting as if our strings are pulled by some puppeteer of patriarchy, for good or ill, reinforces the power of the myth.

so, one can't really blame The Patriarchy, any more than one can blame God.

maybe that was the joke the whole time. maybe Twisty herself was putting one over on the blogosphere.

Comments:
I disagree that there is no patriarchy, but I wholly agree that this thing I'm calling 'patriarchy' is not something based on fixed, measureable, inexorable realities. So in that sense, sure, it's quite tooth-fairy like.

I spent years - really, years trying to get at the question of why there was this construction called patriarchy; the men bred to thrive and the women to serve them in every possible capacity (along the mother to whore spectrum) and then die.

The key to decoding (then destroying) the myth of patriarchy's "naturalness" (or the myth of patriarchy itself, as you seem to have it in your post), it has seemed to me, would be in rooting out the real, physical, evolutionary reasons why these variously adaptive and maladaptive gender relations came into being. The backstory, if you will. And then reconceive/ reconstruct everything that had originially depended upon the flawed (patriarchal) customs and assumptions.

Closest I came to grasping the why of it (and potentially, the mechanisms by which one might begin to think of really undoing it) ironically came in a book by a man: Robert S. McElvaine's Eve’s Seed: Biology, the Sexes and the Course of History (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001). I know many feminists are scared to death to talk about biology (because of the very real problems - and dangers - of biological determinism), but, after reading this particular book, I realized they really did not need to be. It's one of those issues which, unless serious, thinking women (and allied men) talk about it, the anti-feminist theocracy will continue to (falsely) claim 'biology' as part of its own rationale.

Just my noisy two cents, again... (Though I guess with my unusual output of comments in the last 24 hours - what's up with that? - I'm up to at least 6 cents or something.)

P.S. The "Choose an identity" window in Blogger's commenting apparatus continues to amuse the shit out of me. If only I could so easily automate and codify my identity decisions...
 
*screams* Yes! I feel this way ALL THE TIME! At its best, the word "patriarchy" is a shorthand way of saying "the effects of a lot of people believing that men and women are fundamentally different and fundamentally superior and inferior, respectively, and basing their behavior on that belief." It's there, but it's not an entity in and of itself. Saying "I blame the patriarchy" is a nicer way of saying "I'm upset that a lot of stupid people are being real assholes in a similar way."

I can't really blame people for believing and acting as though it is an entity, though. The one thing all people seem to look for is a sense of pattern to their life--that they have a place in an order that means something or intends something, even if that order is inimical. Some people turn to gods to fulfil this; some people turn to fandoms. Romantics get all pissy about it, have some more wine, and write poetry of varying quality to rage, rage against the absence of the light; some people, like Douglas Adams, laugh scared laughs at meaninglessness and hope for a bit of love before they die (which I suppose is another way of being a Romantic, but I would think that, becuase I am one). And some people, I think, turn to patriarchy. Once you have a framework, you have something to fight against and something to work toward.

Me, I'm not taking any chances: I'm joining them all.
 
I'm just really taking this opportunity to tell you I just discovered your site and some of the other "anti-Twisty" blogs, for lack of a better term, and I'm thrilled to find some like-minded feminist blogs out there!! Anyway, I agree that "patriarchy" is merely a construct, a shorthand way of describing all of the societal elements that allow men to thrive at the expense of women, but as victoria points out, it is no less powerful by virtue of being a construct. I guess it does make it easier to imagine bringing it down, however, because acknowledging that it is a purely social construct allows us to picture convincing enough of society that it needs to be dismantled. Society holds it up, so society (and women as a part of it) can bring it down.
 
thanks for the book rec, Victoria. I'll chase it down forthwith.

welcome, SPG and Ruth!
 
I don't believe there is a vast conspiracy among men to oppress women. I do believe there can be a general tendency in behaviors to be either dominant or submissive, and men tend to be dominant and women submissive (TENDENCY, I say, not definitive set in stone behavior), and those tendencies can create the image of a patriarchal role.

I believe that individuals are capable of self determination, and if they decide there is a partriarchal oppressor, then, for them, there is. A woman can also decide to make her own way, and become whatever she chooses.

40 years ago the Veterinary medical profession was dominated by men. The classes my father taught were 98%+ male. By 2000, when he retired, his classes were 80% female. He frequently commented that the female students were smarter, more motivated , and had a better relationship with each other and the faculty than did the men. He called it professional evolution.
 
"I believe that individuals are capable of self determination, and if they decide there is a partriarchal oppressor, then, for them, there is. A woman can also decide to make her own way, and become whatever she chooses.
"

Um, except when men have all the political power and won't allow a woman to become whatever she chooses regardless of her determination.

Women in western countries largely have the ability that you speak. There are many women in many other countries who still really do not have that luxury.
 
ruth: yes, exactly, a construct. a convenient way of framing things. "white supremacy" would do, has done, or "capitalism," or...well, pick your monolith. we all have ways of organizing the world; we none of us have the One True Frame, i don't think. if it's convenient to use "patriarchy" as the shape for the abstract structure, then by all means; the problem comes when, as with castles in the sky, some people set up house and move in. or spend all their time trying to bulldoze it, in this case, i suppose.
 
Women in western countries largely have the ability that you speak. There are many women in many other countries who still really do not have that luxury.

true enough. but the fact that they don't is still not based on anything but a shared delusion that men deserve to dominate and women deserve to be dominated.

true in New York, true in Chicago, true in Beijing, true in Kinshasha, true in Mumbai...from sea to shining sea.

way down deep, through the layers of violence and oppression and humiliation and poverty (all both real and true) - The Patriarchy, in the words of Penn and Teller, is bullshit.

we in the west, all wrapped up in the blaming and handwringing, know this but refuse to act like we know.

I'm not going to assume I know crap about the very real, tangible, day to day hardships of women worldwide. but I've thought about it and this is what I've come up with - at the very base of it, patriarchy is an illusion.
 
Whaaat?

Wait.

Maybe I'm misinformed or totally misreading you, but you just said:

there is no patriarchy.

And then you said:

rape there is, humiliation there is, institutionalized racism and sexism and horrific crimes of mind-numbing sexual violence - yes, all exist, and flourish . . . men thrive, and women choke to death and die on the vine, because somehow someone somewhere convinced men that they were born to thrive, and women that they were born to choke.

Isn't that -- all those crimes and all the conditioning -- the definition of the patriarchy? So you said the patriarchy isn't real and proved it is all in one post??

And by real I mean "in existence."

Help.
 
Isn't that -- all those crimes and all the conditioning -- the definition of the patriarchy? So you said the patriarchy isn't real and proved it is all in one post??

real, but not true.

based on pure fiction. some ancient and dumb idea. house of cards.

exists because we believe it exists.
 
real, but not true.

based on pure fiction. some ancient and dumb idea. house of cards.

exists because we believe it exists.


Well yeah, I thought that was the whole point of labeling it the way we do, haha.
 
huh.

it's like the word "Patriarchy" is the punchline without a joke.

(yeah, yeah - rape/violence/misery no laughing matter. I get that.)

how many ___ does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

Patriarchy!
 
I don't think there is such a thing as "the patriarchy," only societies and cultures which are/were more or less patriarchal (but differently from each other).

But I do think that patriarchy does/did exist, as a kind of ideology, originally projected by (some, ruling) men. It is an ideology which is based on the phallus, which is a fiction, a way of talking, rather than the penis, which is not so reliable for ideological purposes, being (as it is) real and vulnerable. Fallible, even.

I think that the "dominating phallus," as it is institutionalized in any number of "patriarchal" societies and cultures, is thus not only an illusion but a projection, like The Great and Powerful Oz. Exactly like The Great and Powerful Oz, though of course Oz was benign and this kind of projective fiction often is not. (And of course it is underwritten by as much coercion as is feasible, yet it remains at some level humbug for all that.)

The "dominating phallus" does not for me (and yes, I am a man) represent any truth about male sexuality. But in a great number of societies, some or many men have found it to be a useful image by which to deny their own mortality, vulnerability, or potential competitive disadvantage. Also of course, to postulate their indispensability, their necessity, you could even say their entitlement, of course.

I don't think this ideology (was it the First Ideology? maybe) was ever seamless even for men. In fact I think if one looks, one can see men's covert recognition of the cracks in it, going way back. When not too oppressed, I think women have often laughed at it.
 
It is an ideology which is based on the phallus, which is a fiction, a way of talking, rather than the penis, which is not so reliable for ideological purposes, being (as it is) real and vulnerable. Fallible, even.

now that is an interesting point, humbition, re vulnerability and fallibility and projection etc.
 
Consider it this way:

it is, as humbition suggests, a creation of the collective unconscious; it lives somewhere in the abstract.

and like all such things--gods, ideas, "memes"--it needs believers to keep it going.

or, people putting energy into it, say.

A Unitarian minister once said: what you putt your energy, your passion into is what you worship; that is your prayer.

but can you pray a negative?

One could argue that the Black Mass still ends up just sending more energy to the Catholic Church.

positive or negative, you're still giving the construct life, by feeding it, by -believing- it.
 
What humbition said, there.

I dunno about The Patriarchy. It sounds a little bit like The Illuminati.

But, patriarchy? Hell yeah it exists.
 
"But I do think that patriarchy does/did exist, as a kind of ideology, originally projected by (some, ruling) men. It is an ideology which is based on the phallus, which is a fiction, a way of talking, rather than the penis, which is not so reliable for ideological purposes, being (as it is) real and vulnerable. Fallible, even."

For me, that 'kind of' phallus-based ideology, combined with capitalism equates to modern-day patriarchy. Obviously, it isn't about the phallus - it simply pertains to those who bear one; and they suffer almost as much as those they oppress, these days.
 
Great thought-provoking post. For me, patriarchy is inextricably connected to both capitalism and white supremacy. They all feed off one another and prop each other up, not as a conspiracy but as a pattern or modus operandi or something.

I love the idea that if we just stopped believing in patriarchy or its evil socioeconomic siblings, they might lose all their power, like the wizard of Oz.
 
who knows - it could be the dumbest idea of the 21st century. maybe I've outdone myself in the pursuit of raising the dumb idea to an artform.

but that was the product of years of cogitation on my part - that was the best I can come up with.

(teehee, now that I've said it, maybe I can shut the fuck up!)

glad you dug it, at least on a thought-provoking level, literaryhoax.
 
right the fuck on, AP
 
if we just stopped believing in patriarchy or its evil socioeconomic siblings, they might lose all their power

Well, but darling, they do! They do!

All you have to do when the boys start acting uppity is to pat them on the heads and tell them how cute they are. They settle right down and behave. All the little monsters need is just some love. This is the truth!
 
I stopped believing in the war against terror and the global warming thing and so on, but they still appear on my TV, and I feel hotter every day.
 
I stopped believing in the war against terror and the global warming thing and so on, but they still appear on my TV, and I feel hotter every day.

good point.

but - just because it's not a war ON TERROR doesn't mean people won't get dead. I never meant to suggest that pain and suffering and exploitation and violence aren't real or true.
 
i'm with -- gasp! -- victoria. *snort*

for all my bitching about the term, it's bitching about the use of it by folks who end up reifying it. it ends up signifying zippo.

aside from which, see. i got a lot of heat for saying that folks were interested in discovering the originas, b/c once you know the origins, you have a pssing chance of figuring out how to dismantle.

Thus, I offer VM as evidence that I was right damn it! :p

ooops. i must go back to broadbrushing radfems and provacateuring for the rightwing.

oh, but seriously, maybe we should do a group read of the book VM mentions.

ciao
 
Patriarchy is not just an ideology; it is also the definition of a social system in which males rule over females. Such social systems definitely exist!

Even if it were just an ideology, ideas are incredibly powerful in shaping actual human experience. To take another example, 'human rights' is just a concept. Every day, the concept is totally ignored all over the world and people suffer. Yet when people embrace the concept of human rights, completely intangible though it is, good things can happen.

We could talk about God or the number of noughts on your computerised bank balance in just the same way; it's not about the concreteness of the concept; it's about how beliefs - particularly beliefs shared on a large scale - shape people's actions.

So to me, for all intents and purposes, patriarchy exists.
 
Damn! I love this post!

Personally, I always thought blaming patriarchy was a way to avoid blaming men. Anyway, whatever... nice post!
 
Post a Comment



<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?