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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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128 Responses

  1. Kathy McCarty
    Kathy McCarty October 5, 2006 at 5:51 pm |

    Twisty is the G*R*E*A*T*E*S**T

    I fully concede that my marriage is a survival strategy.

    I have absolutely NO attachment to femininity, fashion, porn or religion though.

  2. Esme
    Esme October 5, 2006 at 6:52 pm |

    I really loved that line, and that whole post come to think of it. The whole point of her insistence that we analyze our behaviors, tastes, interests, etc. is that we can come to realize that maybe the reason why we like certain things isn’t because they’re just swell things (a high heel in and of itself is more akin to a torture device or one of those handicapping devices of Kurt Vonnegut) but because we receive rewards in this society for going along with these things, many of which contribute to our oppression.

  3. kate
    kate October 5, 2006 at 7:36 pm |

    I love it when she brings up pink tool kits since I have seen them displayed as a liberating item for aspiring women in construction to wear.

    I wouldn’t wear a hot pink tool belt (which I’ve seen as a fundraiser for a program getting women in construction) or a pink hardhat and then expect to be taken seriously as a full human and not a cartoon characterization of ‘liberated woman’.

    And those little flowering three-in-one hammers I see on the counter at the lumber yard, well, I tease my parnter and some of my subs that I’m going to buy them a set. Everyone thinks they are silly, even the young girls at the check-out.

    And yet woman are supposed to buy them and think themselves what? I don’t know. Stupid maybe?

  4. kate
    kate October 5, 2006 at 7:40 pm |

    Sorry, by ‘flowering’ I met ‘flowery’. Although wrapped with pretty little flowers all over, these hammers, like so many other frilly flowery items aren’t actually flowering, just simply waiting to sow more seeds of belittlement and to thus further oppression.

  5. the15th
    the15th October 5, 2006 at 8:20 pm |

    Sorry, but the fact that Twisty wrote approvingly of breastfeeding as a blow against the patriarchy a while back kind of invalidates this. How is nurturing children any less traditionally feminine, or any more of a noncoerced personal choice, than trying to look attractive to people you’re attracted to (men, in the case of straight women) or forming a lifelong commitment in the form of marriage? I notice motherhood isn’t anywhere on her list of non-approved things.

    Many women say that they were never traditionally feminine, even as young children. But many women — and some men — were, and not necessarily as a result of patriarchal conditioning (especially in the case of the men.) As a young girl, I liked to dress up in frilly nylon dresses, and play with worms and chemistry sets. I still like to dress feminine, and I’m still doing science. I don’t think my experience is any more or less valid than that of a woman who grew up hating dresses and Barbies.

  6. the15th
    the15th October 5, 2006 at 8:27 pm |

    Also, she doesn’t mention things like housework or knitting either. All of her alleged evil patriarchy trappings are associated with the “glamorous” type of traditional femininity, not the “earth mother” type. I’m not sure why it’s worse to identify with one than the other.

  7. shannon
    shannon October 5, 2006 at 8:44 pm |

    It’s because feminism is more likely to be coopted from the glamourous woman side than from the earth mother side.

  8. the15th
    the15th October 5, 2006 at 8:50 pm |

    How is that? Being a stay-at-home mom, keeping a beautiful house, doing traditionally female crafts — all have been promoted as “empowered personal autonomy.” I’m sure Twisty wouldn’t tell a woman who was a nurse or child care worker that her choice of careers is really just a “survival skill.”

  9. Frumious B.
    Frumious B. October 5, 2006 at 8:51 pm |

    I love Twisty. Love love love her. I do not find her perfect or always right, however. Just a for instance, I have never seen her acknowledge that, once in a while, a woman can make a decision which, while still a political statement, is also autonomous.

  10. Rhiannon
    Rhiannon October 5, 2006 at 9:11 pm |

    And those little flowering three-in-one hammers I see on the counter at the lumber yard, well, I tease my parnter and some of my subs that I’m going to buy them a set. Everyone thinks they are silly, even the young girls at the check-out.

    Eep! While I have managed to resist the urge (on a number of occasions) to buy a pink tool kit… I do have one of those 3-in-1 hammers with flowers decorating the hammer part. I bought it -not cause I liked the design or anything- but because my dad’s tools had all gone missing, I was at the checkout and remembered that I was going to need a hammer and philips screwdriver for the project I was working on. I thought it was perfect (and in fact it has come in use a number of times – even as a play toy for my 3 year old… she loves to take it apart and put it back together)… sigh.. I had no idea I was giving into the patriarchy by buying it… *pout*

  11. Caja
    Caja October 5, 2006 at 10:02 pm |

    If the hot pink tools are actually fully functional, and not just cutesy like those mini-hammers with the floral print, they might actually be useful in an additional by _being_ hot pink, cause if you are working around lots of other people, everyone will know that the hot pink ones are yours (I’ve known people who worked in the trades who deliberately colored their tools bright horrid colors, so 1) they’d be easier to see and 2) if someone “borrowed” it, you could quickly tell, assuming anyone would willingly borrow your hot pink wrench).

    But I draw the line at the tools with feathers and crap attached to them. Yes, those do exist.

  12. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 5, 2006 at 10:32 pm |

    Also, she doesn’t mention things like housework or knitting either. All of her alleged evil patriarchy trappings are associated with the “glamorous” type of traditional femininity, not the “earth mother” type. I’m not sure why it’s worse to identify with one than the other.

    Hmmm, I agree with the 15th. In my personal experience, the earth mothers are just as much tools of the patriarchy as the glamazons.

    They’re much more likely to perpetrate things like tell you you’re poisioning your child by giving them formula supplements. And I’ve met some stay-at-home La Leche Leaguers who were practically fundamentalist in their definitions of gender roles.

  13. wolfa
    wolfa October 5, 2006 at 11:08 pm |

    If the hat and tools are as functional — the flowery tool kits always looked flimsy to me, though handy to keep in a car maybe — why shouldn’t you have them in pink? Why should you be taken seriously wearing yellow, but not pink?

    Shouldn’t a reflexive hatred of all things traditionally coded feminine also be looked at carefully? Are you buying into the patriarchy’s saying that feminine = stupid and unimportant?

    (NB: I don’t have any strong feelings about pink — sometimes I like it, sometimes not. And I really don’t like floral patterns. But I do love to bake, and I wear heels.)

  14. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 5, 2006 at 11:24 pm |

    Shouldn’t a reflexive hatred of all things traditionally coded feminine also be looked at carefully? Are you buying into the patriarchy’s saying that feminine = stupid and unimportant?

    Yes, thank you, that’s exactly what I wanted to say but couldn’t quite gel in my head.

  15. Liz Henry
    Liz Henry October 5, 2006 at 11:44 pm |

    I also agree with Twisty, despite owning and using a small, perky, cute, lightweight, somewhat ineffectual flowery hammer and its compact yet ineffecient screwdrivers. It is not even well made. If it were well made like a Leatherman AND flowery… then it might qualify as arty. I agree that my intent of being all ironic and genderfucked doesn’t really fix or counteract the patriarchy… In fact my attitude towards it and my having bought the flowery hammer is an indication not just of complicity in my own oppression but in my existence in a temporary pocket of baroque decadence where I have the luxury of playing around with that irony… But yes, in that context, the flowery hammer as a signal of pointless semi-incompetent femminess is also a survival skill as it marks me, my identity, with markers of that same useless luxury, just as high heels are sexy because they make you useless for any actual physical labor, instead, as a femmy woman, you are a luxury good for others to consume and mark themselves with…

    There are other objects that are needlessly butched up, angular, and masculine – to indicate power. The whole idea of gendering everyday objects is damned bizarre. I guess it encourages conspicuous consumption.

  16. piny
    piny October 6, 2006 at 12:09 am |

    It’s because feminism is more likely to be coopted from the glamourous woman side than from the earth mother side.

    I dunno if I can agree with this; the “earth mother” symbolism has its own remarkably uncritical adherents. It’s just coming from a different faction.

  17. tigtog
    tigtog October 6, 2006 at 1:10 am |

    the15th: Sorry, but the fact that Twisty wrote approvingly of breastfeeding as a blow against the patriarchy a while back kind of invalidates this. How is nurturing children any less traditionally feminine, or any more of a noncoerced personal choice, than trying to look attractive to people you’re attracted to (men, in the case of straight women) or forming a lifelong commitment in the form of marriage? I notice motherhood isn’t anywhere on her list of non-approved things.

    I think you’re missing an important distinction between femaleness and femininity.

    Motherhood and the bodily-nurturing of children is female, but not everything female needs to be wrapped in femininity. Earth mothering is another type of femininity superimposed on femaleness. Dressing to attract the opposite sex is obviously going to be about pointing up sexual markers, but it doesn’t have to give in to gender fetishes like high heels and shaved armpits – there are people out there who find women sexy as females without them having to dress and act overtly feminine. After all, liking frills used to be for everybody in Renaissance times, so wearing frills to be attractive is not inherently female, but it has been made into part of femininity.

  18. The Debate Link
    The Debate Link October 6, 2006 at 1:36 am |

    Pluralism Among The Survival Set

    Twisty of the well-known “I Blame The Patriarchy” blog remarks on women who defend their enjoyment of certain patriarchal trappings (think Carleton’s “Feminists for the use of mascara” group):

  19. LS
    LS October 6, 2006 at 3:49 am |

    why shouldn’t you have them in pink? Why should you be taken seriously wearing yellow, but not pink?

    I have nothing against pink in the general way (except that most shades of it look terrible with my coloring), but what gets me is seeing a nice, compact set of tools in a catalog — compact in the sense of packing neatly into an easily portable or stored container, not in the sense of smaller and less useful — in either tan, brown, or blue, accompanied by a picture of a big strapping guy using them and words like ‘tough’ and ‘durable’ in the text… Then turning the page and seeing the exact same set of tools colored pink and packed in a floral case being held — not used, just held — by a smiling woman and described as ‘attactive’ and ‘comfortable’ under a big bold heading: TOOLS FOR HER!

    Actual event. May even still have the catalog around here somewhere. I won’t discuss the ‘boys toys’ and ‘girls toys’ pages… *shudder*

  20. ACG
    ACG October 6, 2006 at 9:25 am |

    Just in defense of tiny three-in-one hammers – my mom has one (in textured brass finish, not flowery), and the tiny screwdriver is perfect for fixing eyeglasses and putting those tiny little screws back into electronics, and the hammer is a good weight for small chores like hanging pictures and tacking those cardboard backing things onto bookshelves that you have to build yourself.

    Of course, my mom also has a sledgehammer and a brad nailer for putting up barbed-wire fences, so the delicate “girliness” of that particular hammer just makes it an “inside tool” instead of an “outside tool”. It’s not actually useless; it’s just ridiculous that they’re always femmed up and offered as “just for her” tools because obviously, all of the big-grownup-tool-needing jobs will be done by big, manly men.

  21. langsuyar
    langsuyar October 6, 2006 at 9:50 am |

    Simply here to agree with tigtog. Gigantic, huge, enormous effing difference between

    female

    and

    feminine.

    And understanding that means all the difference in the world when trying to understand nuances like how feminine gender drag is oppresive because it marks you as a member of the subordinate sex-class that exists to be consumed. And when you go along with the feminine drag you get the approval of the patriarchal culture (whether that drag is high heels or a burqa) which means they don’t shun you out of the metaphorical village and you get to, you know, eat and stuff.

    But doing things that are exclusive to being -female- has nothing to do with the drag you wear or the colors you like. Males can’t give birth and for the most part can’t breastfeed (and breastfeeding is consistantly under attack by those who view breasts and evil or there only for male titillation) therefore giving birth and breastfeeding is exclusively female. Something exclusively female is radical by the very nature of the fact that it cannot be co-opted by the patriarchy no matter how hard “they” try. All they can do is fetishize it (hence the madonna/whore thing). However, being a “mother” is so ingrained with culty-patriarchal meaning that being a “mother” is no longer purely female, but also -feminine- (or you face horrendous derision that you’ll ruin the child forever if you are too butch or if you are a male trying to be a “mother”.) See, the patriarchy gets to decide what is a good or bad “mother” including all its feminine trappings but the patriarchy can never change the definition of “giving birth” or “breastfeeding” to anything someone other than a female can do regardless of whether they conform to any other gender norms.

    Female =/= feminine. Female is what you are (if in fact you are female) and feminine is what the patriarchy makes you do to make sure everyone knows you are female and therefore a consumable object.

    And I love Teh Pink. Woo! The coffe kicked in!

  22. jm
    jm October 6, 2006 at 11:33 am |

    For me, the difference between the earth-mother and the glamour girl is that what the earth-mother is doing is useful in itself. Breastfeeding is useful. So is knitting and growing your own food. Maybe you think some breastfeeding mothers are obnoxious, but usually they’re sticking to those ideals for their babies, not to please men. Wearing high heels is not useful for anything except attracting men (who like the conventional ideal of femininity). The only reason it feels good to wear heels is because of the reaction from men (or competitive women, if you’re into that).

    The problem for me is that even though I know this, I still take advantage of it. I’ve noticed that even those truly pro-feminist boys are attracted to lipstick and high heels. I was born with my mom’s sexpot figure; when I get dressed up, I can play the traditional sexy-woman role easily, and it works. Guys might appreciate that I can fix the car and am physically strong, but they are still into the heels and lipstick. I know that I’m doing this because I was taught by my mother that I should look sexy, and that I get positive reinforcement from it, and I’m insecure enough to think that I might not find a partner if I don’t do these things, and I know that it plays into patriarchal ideals, but I still do it. I’ve gotten more and more conflicted about it as I’ve gotten older. It’s sad. It’s like an addiction. I almost feel like I can’t be truly feminist with 4-inch heels on, but it’s hard to give it up. Calling it a survival skill feels accurate to me, but it also feels like a cop-out, because I should know better. How do other women deal with this?

    And yeah, I might be into the pink tools if they actually worked.

  23. the15th
    the15th October 6, 2006 at 12:12 pm |

    the difference between the earth-mother and the glamour girl is that what the earth-mother is doing is useful in itself.

    Well, I don’t know about useful, but style is a sort of art. Getting dressed up is fun for people who, like me, enjoy that kind of thing. Are art and fun less valid reasons for doing something traditionally feminine than utility is?

  24. langsuyar
    langsuyar October 6, 2006 at 12:58 pm |

    “Are art and fun less valid reasons for doing something traditionally feminine than utility is? ”

    I would say that they are less valid if the dressing up you do conforms to gender norms because you aren’t being creative or artistic you are simply aping what the dominant culture has told you women do when they dress up. Rather than creating something from nothing (as in art, painting, design, sculpture), you are simply taking what the patriarchy has deemed appropriate for sexual objects to wear and wearing it. Thats not creative or artful, its just enjoying the privilages of conforming to the dominant paradigm.

    If something has a usefulness or beauty outside of the patriarchal paradigm (like growing food, raising children, knitting your own socks, and oooooh pretty colors!) then there are valid reason for pursuing the activity. What usefulness does dressing in feminine gender drag (displaying and accentuating the markers of the female body that reduce women to walking tits and ass–fuckable commodities– that can’t run away because we’re wearing high heels) serve? It looks pretty (why?–we’re supposed to think that)? Make-up is fun (why?–we’re supposed to think that)? Oh boy, yeah, thats a stinky rationalization wallowing in denial. No. The reason we dress up in feminine gender drag is because we are suppose to and if we don’t we face censure or, in some cultures, outright punishment. And if we do conform to the fashion, we get approval from others in our culture.

    Therefore, saying, “I like to play dress-up and look girly” is nice and all, but its not a valid political statement and when you are a member of an oppressed class, everything you do is a political statement. Even deciding which shoes you wear in the morning is a matter of “am I going to participate in my own oppression or am I going to use my brain instead of my hot ass to get attention today?”

    So, dressing up isn’t creative or artful, it is just copying what the dominant culture lays out for the sex class to do and the only fun involved is picking which colors go where and the the REACTIONs of the people you’ll be displaying to. Other traditionally feminine endevours that have actual utility are ends in themselves for that reason beyond what the patriarchal culture turns them into for the purposes of denigrating women and the work women traditionally do.

    In other words, its nice girls like to play dress up and boy it sure is fun, but don’t fool yourself into thinking it doesn’t play right into the hands of the patriarchal cultures that reduce you to nothing more than the walking signifiers of sexual availability.

    Fashion and colors used to be used by both sexes to advertise their class (purple was only worn by royalty, only french whores shaved their legs, magistrates wore powdered wigs). Now, men wear clothes that are almost exclusively utilitarian but women are still trapped in a fashios made up of costumes (this fall’s look! The peasant! The Bohemian!). These costumes still signify women’s class. The sex class. A costume designed to titillate (and they all are because they all accentuate the markers of gender difference) is useful only to the person consuming your commodification and its not art since you are just wearing what you are being told your class should wear. Growing your own food is useful. You don’t starve. It is also fun and gardens are quite beautiful.

    Yes, I realize I said the same thing six different ways. Sorry for the long post.

  25. piny
    piny October 6, 2006 at 1:09 pm |

    I would say that they are less valid if the dressing up you do conforms to gender norms because you aren’t being creative or artistic you are simply aping what the dominant culture has told you women do when they dress up. Rather than creating something from nothing (as in art, painting, design, sculpture), you are simply taking what the patriarchy has deemed appropriate for sexual objects to wear and wearing it. Thats not creative or artful, its just enjoying the privilages of conforming to the dominant paradigm.

    But artists of all stripes and at all levels of skill use material from the society around them and exercise their talents in ways approved and understood by the society around them. No one makes anything from nothing.

    I also have a problem seeing childbearing, cooking, housecleaning, etc., as being exempt from this sort of thing because they have “inherent utility.” Sure they do–that’s why women were forced to make themselves useful doing them, and taught to be proud of their ability to do them. A regime that turns women into breeding machines or housekeepers is not less oppressive or less artificial than one that turns women into sex objects.

    Gardening might seem more inherently creative to you, but that probably has more to do with regional and generational codes of femininity and proper female behavior than anything else. A lady’s rose garden, a lady’s apple pie, and a lady’s powdered nose are the same message in a slightly different medium. Ask the prairie muffins.

  26. the15th
    the15th October 6, 2006 at 1:31 pm |

    Thanks, piny — that’s exactly what I wanted to say.

  27. langsuyar
    langsuyar October 6, 2006 at 1:42 pm |

    Hmm.. I think you misunderstood me completely.

    Are you trying to say that childbearing should be split equally with the men just like the cooking and housecleaning?

    ‘Cause that would be damn amazing.

    Female =/= feminine. Female is what you are, feminine is what the culture makes you do to make damn sure you are marked as different from male. Females give birth. Women are feminine if they copy correctly and to the correct degree the actions and drag their dominant culture had deemed appropriate. That goes for clothes and for “a lady’s rose garden”. (Rose gardens, btw, don’t put food on the table.)

    My point is that utility is a more valid reason for doing something than art, when the thing we are talking about (dressing up) is, in fact, not artful but merely doing what the culture says you should do in the manner you should do it. Therefore, doing a thing that has utility (growing food) even though it is traditionally feminine is more valid than doing something feminine that has no utility (dressing up). Although both still suffer from the baggage of patriarchal culture one will keep you from starving to death and the other just reinforces the dominant culture’s evaluation of you as a sexual commodity. Even though they are both typically feminine activities.

    “Art and fun” are a less valid reason for doing something (than utility) that reinforces gender subordination than utility because “art and fun” are subjective. Its kind of like saying you think torturing kittens is fun and therefore it is a valid activity except that in our case you are participating in the oppression of women instead of kittens. Copping to the dominant paradigm and calling it fun just means you get all the privilages of cultural acceptance without any of the responsibility of admitting what you are doing reinforces the dominant paradigm!

  28. piny
    piny October 6, 2006 at 1:58 pm |

    Are you trying to say that childbearing should be split equally with the men just like the cooking and housecleaning?

    No, although motherhood is not limited to childbearing.

    Female =/= feminine. Female is what you are, feminine is what the culture makes you do to make damn sure you are marked as different from male. Females give birth. Women are feminine if they copy correctly and to the correct degree the actions and drag their dominant culture had deemed appropriate. That goes for clothes and for “a lady’s rose garden”. (Rose gardens, btw, don’t put food on the table.)

    Yeah, but neither does art of any kind. You keep bouncing back and forth between inherent utility and imposed calculi for utility. Childbearing, housekeeping, and vegetable gardens all have both. There is no greater inherent validity to maintaining a vegetable garden, or having a child, particularly given the way their worth has traditionally been harnessed in the service of anything but the woman’s wellbeing.

  29. ACG
    ACG October 6, 2006 at 2:56 pm |

    The thing about femininity is that yes, as opposed to female-ness, it is defined by the patriarchy. But rejecting it out-of-hand is no more noble than accepting it out-of-hand. If you choose gender neutrality because the patriarchy would have you be feminine, you’re handing away your self-determination just as surely as if you’d chosen femininity for the same reason.

    Some artists create art that makes a statement about society; some make commercial art. If a Jos Sances and a Thomas Kinkade are hanging side-by-side, and some people can’t tell the difference, does that make Jos Sances a commercialized sellout? Does it take away the validity of his message, just because it’s delivered in a simliar package to the Kinkade? I’m not advocating “choice feminism,” because that’s an entirely different issue, but the fact that a woman chooses the trappings of femininity doesn’t automatically make her a sellout to the patriarchy.

    There’s no inherent nobility in femininity, any more than there’s inherent nobility in a landscape, but there’s a difference between being a Sances because you have something to say and being a Kinkade because it’s easier than thinking.

  30. langsuyar
    langsuyar October 6, 2006 at 3:21 pm |

    You are supposing a world where people don’t have to do anything to survive. Like food grows in the grocery store and clothes aren’t made by little slave girls. Add in all the factors and growing your own food is a more valid activity than being a fashionista.

    “Motherhood” is a loaded term. Who is and is not a “good mother” is directly related to patriarchal norms, which is why I only said childbearing. Only women can give birth, and no matter how someone tries to reframe it, patriarchy can’t co-opt that fact. But lots of people can raise children, they don’t even have to be female. Men can make wonderful mothers but our culture doesn’t let them because “mother” corresponds with a specific formula. Its the same formula that makes poor women less than dirt if they do or do not give birth, among other things. Double binds all the way–living correctly within those double binds is the art of being feminine.

    I think that the caffeine has worn off now.

    Okay, so moving on past the joke about men having babies and helping do the dishes as part of a liberal feminist calculus for gender equality…

    I don’t think I’m bouncing between anything. Something either helps your survival or it doesn’t. That is utility. There is no such thing as “inherent utility”. Something can have the “virtue” of being utilitarian only by its usefulness.

    Art and fun cannot have utility in-and-of-themselves. They can have utility if they serve a purpose. Growing food serves a purpose; you get to eat. (It is useful for the argument to keep in mind that it is only a very privilaged minority of the world that gets to stop at the grocery store on their drive home from work for a quick bite to eat.) Art and fun can serve a purpose (and utilitarian authors go on and on about this) through mental well-being and other such intangibles.

    But if you put growing food and dressing up on a hierarchy of needs, one is going to be more useful than the other, even though, yes, both are patriarchally loaded activities.

    However, given that dressing up also serves the dual purpose of marking women as members of the sex class in a way that growing food does not, it is more highly problematic. In a survival situation, (and seperataly, since we already know who would be hoeing the garden if they are together) both men and women will grow food. Neither will play dress up until the whole food thing is taken care of.

    So, everything we do is done under the auspices of patriarchal pressure. Everything must be viewed in that context. However, some things are less loaded than others. “Motherhood” is loaded. Giving birth is just a statement of fact. The patriarchy gets to decide if the woman who gave birth is a good mother, or even if she has to/gets to be a mother at all (I find that although breastfeeding is a female act, it easily falls prey to the patriarchy’s control of the idea of “motherhood”).

    Dressing up can be viewed through the lense of art and fun all you want and yes, that makes it have a certain kind of value. But it is deeply loaded in that it has a greater value as a marker of members of the sex class–that is its actual use– that makes its value as art and fun (which is subjective anyway) only of secondary importance. However the reverse is true of the activity of growing food. Because the patriarchy says women suck, when we grow food it is part of the oppressive patriarchal system but its actual use is to not starve to death.

    Dressing up: Fun (subjective) but its main use is to mark the sex class.

    Growing food: Foisted upon the sex class because of patriarchy but its main use is to not starve to death (not subjective).

    See? No bouncing. You’ll see bouncing when I get me grubby hands on some pixie stix later.

  31. oleblue
    oleblue October 6, 2006 at 3:22 pm |

    WTF!?

  32. langsuyar
    langsuyar October 6, 2006 at 3:31 pm |

    ACG– I’m pretty sure that’s my point. You can play dress up all you want but if you pretend its not part of the patriarchal system you’re just a Kinkade, to mix metaphors. Under the patriarchy, you can’t really do anything just for yourself, it all has remifications and stuff. Which totally sucks. But we’ve got to face the fact that its true. And when you play dress up, even “just for yourself”, or to be genderfucked or whatever and you somehow get to partake of the privilages involved in conforming to expectations of the feminine… well.. you’ve benefited from the partriarchy and helped oppress someone else. All I’m saying is that you have to keep that in mind, regardless of what you choose to do.

  33. ACG
    ACG October 6, 2006 at 3:52 pm |

    I’m pretty sure that wasn’t my point. My point was that looking like a Kinkade doesn’t make you one. And that if you’re really a Sances, and some people don’t bother getting close enough to see that you’re not a Kinkade, that doesn’t make you a Kinkade, either.

    Traditional gender-neutral feminism isn’t the only way to make a statement. A message can be sent just as clearly with satire as with sincerity. And like I said, if all you’re doing is dressing up in a way that would piss off the patriarchy, you’re still letting them dictate what you do. So, at the risk of repeating myself, there’s no inherent nobility in femininity or gender neutrality if you don’t have a purpose behind it.

    I could be a Kinkade and hang in someone’s condo, or I could be a Serrano and make people angry and uncomfortable – or I could be a Sances, draw people in, and then get them thinking. So to say that I’m “helping oppress” people because I “play dress up” is throwing a false dichotomy into an issue that’s messed up enough to begin with, and is adding judgmentality to a community that gets judged enough by everyone else as it is.

  34. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost October 6, 2006 at 4:02 pm |

    Word to ACG. That’s all I can bear to add.

  35. Argent
    Argent October 6, 2006 at 9:17 pm |

    ACG: “Traditional gender-neutral feminism isn’t the only way to make a statement. A message can be sent just as clearly with satire as with sincerity. And like I said, if all you’re doing is dressing up in a way that would piss off the patriarchy, you’re still letting them dictate what you do. So, at the risk of repeating myself, there’s no inherent nobility in femininity or gender neutrality if you don’t have a purpose behind it.”

    This pretty much articulates the conclusions I’ve come to over the past year or so. Before that I had internalised the view that to be feminine was to be weak, silly, stupid – and that males would treat you in a certain way. Being a geek with geeky interests – which are largely seen as ‘masculine’ – I saw being seen as ‘feminine’ as a problem; that I wouldn’t be taken seriously. Years of dressing ‘masculine’ followed; I wore oversized clothes rather than ones that fitted me properly because then my breasts and hips would be more clearly seen. I was trying to be accepted by being ‘one of the boys’ – literally.

    Then I had an epiphany. It was still blindingly obvious that I was female, no matter how I dressed, so why bother? I should be taken seriously if I dress ‘masculine’ (i.e. massively oversized, horrible clothes) or ‘me’ – (clothes that actually *fitted*).

    So I did. Now I work off the premise that if you can’t get past my double X chromosomes, well, that’s your problem. And I will demand your respect and attention anyway.

    (Probably should add – my friends treated me like a person the entire time. Didn’t matter what sex I was. Some *aquaintences* still have a problem. They’re the ones who give geeks a bad name.)

  36. Ellis Tripp
    Ellis Tripp October 6, 2006 at 9:50 pm |

    If memory serves, Twisty wasn’t cheerleading earth mothers by speaking approvingly of breastfeeding. She was making fun of a rabbi who said women shouldn’t breastfeed in front of men because it made boobies less erotic.
    As far as utilitarian vs. art…if you can’t clean, cook, or sew your house will be full of cockroaches, your belly will be empty, and your pants will constantly be falling down due to missing buttons. It doesn’t matter what gender you are, these are vital skills. No one went hungry because they wore white shoes after Labour Day.

  37. belledame222
    belledame222 October 7, 2006 at 12:17 am |

    “Give us bread, but also give us roses.”

    and i am so tired of the “you must thoroughly reject or at least ‘examine’ until your eyeballs fall out and roll around on the floor ike marbles the trappings of femininity as determined by a terribly earnest committee of second-wave feminists who’re still kind of stuck at ‘my God, Cosmopolitan is rather sexist, isn’t it?’” i wanna crap.

    and for that matter, say what you will about fashion rags, i’ll still take even the sillier ones over a hair shirt any damn day.

  38. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 7, 2006 at 1:16 am |

    and i am so tired of the “you must thoroughly reject or at least ‘examine’ until your eyeballs fall out and roll around on the floor ike marbles the trappings of femininity as determined by a terribly earnest committee of second-wave feminists who’re still kind of stuck at ‘my God, Cosmopolitan is rather sexist, isn’t it?’” i wanna crap.

    Yeah, I agree.

    I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the information that I’m a tool of the patriarchy and my hair, clothes, shoes, makeup, and husband’s penis are all oppressing me.

  39. tigtog
    tigtog October 7, 2006 at 2:05 am |

    Despite my earlier comment regarding the femaleness/femininity distinction, I didn’t mean it imply that all femininity choices are eeevul. I like having long hair to play with and wearing cool flowing skirts in summer. I hate high heels and don’t shave my legs, but I’m pretty hairless so that’s not especially confrontational. I don’t bother with makeup much unless I’m having a skin break-out, which I’m vain enough to want to cover. So I’ve rejected some trappings of femininity, but far from all.

    I think it’s useful to keep the distinction in mind and look at the choices we make, just like it’s worthwhile examining our choices in the light of race and class privilege, simply because it’s better to make thinking choices than unthinking ones.

  40. nexyjo
    nexyjo October 7, 2006 at 3:49 am |

    I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the information that I’m a tool of the patriarchy and my hair, clothes, shoes, makeup, and husband’s penis are all oppressing me.

    yeah, i wonder the same thing. of course, since i’m trans, i get the “supporting gender roles as a tool of the patriarchy” on top of that. seems to me that i’m damned if i do, and damned if i don’t. in the end, no one seems to care if i wear makeup or not, wear heels or not (except for me – i get muscle cramps when i wear heels so i try to avoid that), or be oppressed by my husband’s penis or not. though frankly, i rather like my husband’s penis.

  41. ginmar
    ginmar October 7, 2006 at 8:42 am |

    I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the information that I’m a tool of the patriarchy and my hair, clothes, shoes, makeup, and husband’s penis are all oppressing me.

    Well, Christ, you could at least give a fuck about women who don’t have the status to worry about their fucking hair, clothes, shoes, makeup and husbands. They work too much to worry about hair, they get paid so little that they’re lucky to have clothes, and their husbands beat them all the time, but hey, let’s just sneer at the fact that lots of women live their lives as chattel becuase that might just make you a wee bit uncomfortable. If feminism makes you more uncomfortable than sexism, thank your fucking stars and remember that a lot of women don’t have that option.

  42. the15th
    the15th October 7, 2006 at 10:03 am |

    And how about women who don’t have the status to worry about other women’s clothes, shoes, makeup and husbands?

  43. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 7, 2006 at 10:07 am |

    Well, Christ, you could at least give a fuck about women who don’t have the status to worry about their fucking hair, clothes, shoes, makeup and husbands. They work too much to worry about hair, they get paid so little that they’re lucky to have clothes, and their husbands beat them all the time,

    See, the difference is that I can tell the oppression is coming from the shitty jobs, the low pay, and the abusive husband. I don’t spend all my feminist mojo in attacking other women who are hardly part of the problem.

    And I really don’t think I was coming off as not giving a fuck about women or sneering. That’s not fair to say.

  44. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 7, 2006 at 10:10 am |

    And I never said sexism doesn’t “make me uncomfortable.” Or that feminism does, either.

    Sexism makes me fucking furious.

    Radfems who think my shoes are worse than any sort of real problem annoy me.

    They don’t make me “uncomfortable.”

  45. shannon
    shannon October 7, 2006 at 10:34 am |

    Is there a limited supply of feminist mojo?

  46. exangelena
    exangelena October 7, 2006 at 10:50 am |

    Social conditioning plays a huge role in our perceptions. tigtog mentioned at 17 that men in the Renaissance wore frills (not to mention long hair and tights!) but didn’t consider that masculine, although most men today will. Or if anyone remembers the giggling about Bush and the Saudi prince holding hands, that’s perfectly acceptable in some cultures but seen as effeminite in ours.
    While it’s not related to masculinity or femininity, I have an example of social conditioning at work in my life. Apologies in advance if it gets OT or if I hijack the thread. Feel free to skip this one if you want.
    I’m Asian and I was born with relatively large, round, non-slanted eyes with a prominent double lid. This site claims that my kind of eyes are inherently more beautiful than the more ethnic, “monolid” Asian eyes. However, I can find plenty of women with those types of eyes who are way more attractive than I am. (Also, the site scoffs at any suggestion that the small eyes=ugly has anything to do with racism, while they illustrate beautiful eyes with the green-hazel eye of a mixed model! Anyway …) Well, getting to the point, when I lived in LA and was surrounded by a lot of Asians, I hated my eyes and actually squinted and slanted them in front of the mirror, wishing they were smaller, so I could look more normal. Where I live now, there are fewer Asians than in LA but still a fair amount, and I feel self-conscious about my eyes because I look different.
    So if large, double lidded eyes are inherently more beautiful, I should have been *thrilled* to be soooo gorgeous. Instead, because in the communities I have lived in those eyes are atypical , I consider(ed) myself ugly and a freak. To make a short story long, social conditioning at work :)

  47. piny
    piny October 7, 2006 at 11:02 am |

    Well, Christ, you could at least give a fuck about women who don’t have the status to worry about their fucking hair, clothes, shoes, makeup and husbands. They work too much to worry about hair, they get paid so little that they’re lucky to have clothes, and their husbands beat them all the time, but hey, let’s just sneer at the fact that lots of women live their lives as chattel becuase that might just make you a wee bit uncomfortable. If feminism makes you more uncomfortable than sexism, thank your fucking stars and remember that a lot of women don’t have that option.

    The point of the comment was that x aspect of certain strains of feminist thought seems just a wee bit unproductive, in part (y’all can correct me if I’m wrong) because it distracts from all of the things you’ve mentioned.

  48. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 7, 2006 at 11:11 am |

    The point of the comment was that x aspect of certain strains of feminist thought seems just a wee bit unproductive, in part (y’all can correct me if I’m wrong) because it distracts from all of the things you’ve mentioned.

    Yes that was the point. Thanks.

    Also, though, I’m not sure what the point in Twisty’s original quote is supposed to be, beyond ‘you just got married and wear those clothes because you’re trying to survive, sweet weakling, and I am strong enought to not make those choices.’

    Which is more than a little condescending.

  49. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 7, 2006 at 11:11 am |

    Although now I guess I’m doing what I complained about, attacking other feminists when there are bigger issues to solve.

  50. C. Diane
    C. Diane October 7, 2006 at 11:29 am |

    Has anyone mentioned yet that dressing gender “neutral” really means dressing like a man (eg, wearing pants and non-form-fitting shirts)?

    I’m a woman. I have breasts, hips, and a waist. Wearing clothes to hide those simple biological facts is, in essence, denying that I’m a woman and pretending I’m a man. Much like the conclusions Argent (#35) reached.

  51. Joanna
    Joanna October 7, 2006 at 11:32 am |

    I think that the part of Twisty’s quotation that is being demonstrated in these comments is the “understandably reluctant” part. Nobody wants to think that their “own” “personal” “individual” tastes, choices, feelings, pleasures are tainted by the horrible patriarchy. I’ve never understood all the defensiveness in response to Twisty raising a point that I think we are all, in our own ways, very concerned with: to what extent is the ideology of patriarchy one that we have internalized prior to our coming to feminist consciousness? to what extent is it still a part of all of the interactions with the world that we have, regardless of the choices we make about our presentation, behavior, relationships, etc? And, maybe more to the point for some of you, Is the recognition of the pervasiveness of a set of power relations that we find distasteful equivalent to passing judgement on us individuals?

    If I show up to work with lipstick on, as I did yesterday for the first time in three months, will my colleagues think that my wearing of lipstick is some kind of ironic critique of the patriarchy, or joyful face painting for the pleasure of artistic play,or will they assume that I’m just finally following the dress code and make approving remarks about how I look so much better (as they did)? Are they even aware of my values or attitude when they evaluate my appearance as professonal or non-professional based on how I do or don’t conform? They are to the extent that I have articulated those values to them (dress codes are a tool of the patriarchy).
    I don’t judge my feminist cred by whether or not I wear lipstick, but I am also quite aware that when I wear lipstick I cannot magically abstract myself from the way it will function within a sign system that I do not control.
    Nor do I assume that I have failed some kind of feminist test because I wore the damn lipstick. I don’t confuse my pleasure in lipstick wearing with my participation on a committee trying to change policy regarding family leave or designation bathrooms as gender neutral, or mentoring a female junior colleague so that she can keep her job.

  52. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 7, 2006 at 11:55 am |

    to what extent is the ideology of patriarchy one that we have internalized prior to our coming to feminist consciousness?

    Hmm. See, I never think of myself as having “come to feminist consciousness.” It’s just kind of the way I always have been.

    Also, this examination of internalization is only something I’ve seen directed at women who dress “cisgenderd-ly” to coin an akward phrase. I think this is the reason for the defensiveness.

    I have never seen Twisty or any other of the Radfem matriarchs examine their clothing or lifestyle the way I must constantly examine mine. (If it’s out there, please let me know as I’d be interested to read it.)

    One can just as easily have a feminist rebirth embracing gendered clothing (see Argent’s comment above) as rejecting it.

    And this does remind me of the whole burqa dust-up from last week.

  53. Joanna
    Joanna October 7, 2006 at 12:07 pm |

    Well, plucky pluck, I”m glad that you had that experience, truly. But do you really think it is typical? My reading of a few hundred years of feminist writing, and especially of the last forty years, along with what I see around me in the mainstream media, leads me to conclude that for most poople, some kind of identification with feminist thought and action is learned, and often through hard and painful debate with one’s socialization, and in the face of intense pressure to reject it. So “coming to feminist consciousness” is still a step a lot of us will have to take. The broader point is not about clothing, it is about ways of interpreting the world.
    It seems to me that there is no critique of sexism, racism or any other kind of oppressive ideology without an accompanying recognition of the fact that we are under intense ideolgogical pressure to internalize it. When we think we don’t have to pay attention to that, it can often be a symptom of (unrecgonized) privilege, not necessarily of greater understanding. I’m not saying this about you personally, as I don’t know you. I’m just presenting the way I analyze things in general.
    Have a little patience with those of us who did it the hard way, maybe due to accident of birth (as in being born in 1957).

  54. the15th
    the15th October 7, 2006 at 12:14 pm |

    And this does remind me of the whole burqa dust-up from last week.

    I think the use of a burqa to illustrate female oppression is totally fair, and so is the use of extreme “feminine” clothing. Both are taking an argument to its extreme to bring out an absurdity. That gray Ann Taylor shirt is too revealing for the blogger lunch? Maybe she should have worn a burqa. That power suit isn’t feminine enough for the business meeting? Maybe she should have worn a hot pink miniskirt and stilettos. The problem is when you go from pointing out that women have been coerced into wearing a certain thing to suggesting that every woman who wears it is coerced.

    This is actually making me rethink the “opt-out” thing. I’ve always been a little skeptical of mommy feminism. But I like clothes and I know it’s a personal choice, so why should I be skeptical of a woman who says she likes to take care of kids?

  55. Roonie
    Roonie October 7, 2006 at 12:49 pm |

    Wow. I’m going to be thinking about that one all day.

  56. dream_operator23
    dream_operator23 October 7, 2006 at 12:53 pm |

    I’m glad that I have a body that is considered unattractive by American cultural standards. I have never fet the urge to wear any heels or tight clothes, because to do so would just get me laughed at and made fun of. If I had a prettier body I too would probably struggle with wanting to wear clothes that attract men.

    As it is I still wonder how much of the fact that I like to cook, knit, and crochet is because I really like to or because they are traditionally feminine. Personally I go with that I really like to do them and that I am not trying to confrom to a patriachal code. I also like to draw and do other arty and craft things. I like to create and always have. I think it is inborn, because my mother is an artist too. I also hate to clean and although I have children, I’m not really into being a mother (the patriarchal type of “good mother” at least).

    Now there is something that EVERYONE judges you on. Once you have children it seems like everyone and their mother is dying to tell you how to raise your kids and what you are doing wrong. I hate that. I no longer listen to people that haven’t lived my life, nor have my kids. My kids are healthy, reasonably happy (no one is hapy 24-7), and love me, so I guess I am doing something right. Yet if someone was to compare my mothering skills and tatics with what is found in the average parent magazine I would fall far short.

  57. belledame222
    belledame222 October 7, 2006 at 1:56 pm |

    I certainly take any such woman at her word, at least as a default, same as i would anyone else. The point was never to swap one set of shibboleths for another, goddamit.

  58. sophonisba
    sophonisba October 7, 2006 at 1:58 pm |

    dressing like a man (eg, wearing pants and non-form-fitting shirts)? Wearing clothes to hide those simple biological facts is, in essence, denying that I’m a woman and pretending I’m a man

    Biology.

    Yes; men biologically possess two bifurcating legs, while women are a solid mass from the groin to the knees: hence, skirts. Men have feet which allow them to stand flat on the ground under their own power; women have shortened ankle tendons, so that we are unable to move around without artificial heels on our shoes. (Tobe truly faithful to our femininity, we should perhaps forgo shoes altogether and move on wheels, since re: the pants = masculine issue, we don’t have legs.) Women have shaped torsos, while men’s are an amorphous, shapeless mass, with no waists or shoulders or any other form; hence, baggy clothes are natural to them but a pretense for us.

    Biological facts. Right. Pull the other one.

  59. little light
    little light October 7, 2006 at 2:53 pm |

    Therefore, doing a thing that has utility (growing food) even though it is traditionally feminine is more valid than doing something feminine that has no utility (dressing up).

    You know, not everyone has the time or the land or the energy or, frankly, the self-righteousness to be growing our own food. Some of us spend all our time at work and have to buy our food at the store, especially those of us making it in urban areas. And that takes money. It takes being able to make a living, often at work not of our own choosing and for people who don’t agree with our politics, and it takes being safe to go down the street to the store, and it takes avoiding enough harrassment to have the energy to deal with finding a livelihood or supporting a family.
    You know what? Your “playing dress-up” is not really realistically optional for a lot of us, if we want to make the living to buy the food we eat and/or live safely in a hostile culture, and that looks an awful lot like utility–like taking actions that are useful for survival–to me.

    You can tell those people that they’re betraying their sisters by acquiescing to the demands made on them, by people who have the power to determine, often, whether or not they eat, in order to get by; and you can tell them that if they’d only take to time to make themselves a vegetable garden and weave their own clothing, they too could stop contributing to the patriarchy’s destruction of their fellows; but the moment you suggest that there’s no utility in giving in on a few cosmetic things–or learning to enjoy them–and no value for survival, you’re veering off into ridiculousness.

    Wearing the costumes of greater society often means putting food on the table. Looking down on the women who do, or assuming that they’re not examining the choices they make and trying to do the best thing for themselves and their families because if they were in a different situation they could behave differently, is not my idea of feminism.

  60. Ciardha
    Ciardha October 7, 2006 at 2:58 pm |

    I find it interesting that a couple of people are using Radical Feminism as if it’s something too hideous to stand, by calling women I know are mainstream liberal feminists, “radfems” in a quite insulting way.

    You shouldn’t be suprised at being called on your own sexism if you express contempt for women, especially when paired with some cheerleading for a guy. I think it’s rather disingenious claiming that it’s because you wear lipstick and high heels that “those radfems” are “so mean to you”. It has zero to do with what you like to wear or any “feminine” tastes or hobbies you have. It’s about how you treat other women vs how you treat men. Throwing around the “radfem” label in a contempteous way is why feminists aren’t just thrilled to have you around.

    I’m a liberal feminist myself, and have no problem reconciling liking dollfies (Japanese ball-jointed larger fashion type dolls), sewing, doing historical costuming, enjoying baking things, etc… with my liberal feminism. Not once has any feminist ever quesioned me on my feminism because I like “girly stuff” Not even second wavers I’m friends with, in fact, one has long been a champion of this herself, the cartoonist Trina Robbins.

    Why I won’t wear high heels is because it makes a woman too vulnerable- you can’t really run in high heels. It’s also quite easy to lose ones balance and injure oneself in high heels, and it causes feet and leg muscle damage if worn regularly. Plus with my short wide feet with a high instep and narrow heels they sqeeze my feet right at their widest point, and I hate that thrown forward position. I’m not going to condemn any woman who wants to wear them though if that’s their thing.

  61. C. Diane
    C. Diane October 7, 2006 at 3:10 pm |

    Sophonisba, once upon a time, everyone wore loose-fitting garments. Then men started wearing pants and keeping women in the skirts and dresses, to, I dunno, hinder their movement or something. Or keep them from riding horses too quickly.

    I don’t take issue with pants being considered “gender neutral,” except there’s that phrase which asserts pants = dominant (=male). You know, the one about which person wears the pants in the family.

    Of course, by focusing on the ludicrous reading (“solid mass from groin to knees”) and ignoring the sensical one that was *actually* what I said (breasts, a waist, and hips), one is forced to wonder whether you actually read it. Nowhere did I mention high heels or skirts.

    Wearing a burlap sack to hide the fact that I have a female figure (and dress not in the “sex class” or in some other “gender neutral” way) is antithetical to feminism. It assumes that female is bad, and is something to be hidden. That does *not* mean wearing clothes that reveal or otherwise titillate by overly accentuating said features, but by wearing clothes that, oh, *fit.* That aren’t straight from shoulder to waist to hip (which is the general male torso structure), but have a tapered waist, for example.

    To sum up: rectangular/straight torso = male. curvy torso = female. Using formless/rectangular clothing to cover torso = supposedly gender neutral, but fits typical male pattern.

  62. The Foie Gras Chronicles: Part the First at  I Blame The Patriarchy

    [...] views on misogyny and animal cruelty. Like I always say, you can take the girl out of Feministe, but you can’t take the feminist out of the girl. The story so [...]

  63. nerdlet
    nerdlet October 7, 2006 at 5:33 pm |

    “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the information that I’m a tool of the patriarchy and my hair, clothes, shoes, makeup, and husband’s penis are all oppressing me.”

    Don’t judge other women who point out those facts by saying it’s all just so boring and makes you “wanna crap,” as was done in the post above you. You may be well-aware of your choice, but a lot of self-proclaimed feminists still go on and on about how they got implants for themselves or whatever.

    Don’t act like you’re shocking anyone by loving fellatio or whatever. Yeah, it happens.

    Don’t claim that you’re making a hard choice when you wear high heels or whatever, and imply that it’s hard because you receive just as much pressure from the “boring” feminists to not wear high heels as you do from the entire rest of the world to wear them – in other words, don’t claim that all choices are equal.

    And don’t exaggerate/mock the situation by saying stuff like “These things are all oppressing me.”

    That in hand, you should be fairly good with me – though this is of course a super-simplified version and I have a lot more to say on the subject. I can’t speak for anyone else, etc etc.

  64. shannon
    shannon October 7, 2006 at 5:57 pm |

    *nod* It’s really not that deep. You make your choice, and others are allowed to say they don’t like it or that their ideology doesn’t agree with your choice. That’s all there is to it, folks. Buy me new lipstick in your gratitude, please*

    *lipstick is the only makeup I wear more than once a month.

  65. ginmar
    ginmar October 7, 2006 at 5:57 pm |

    Yeah, Piny, the point is, sneering at women who are oppressed because—Teehee!—you don’t notice it or it doesn’t affect you is bullshit, and arrogant, classist bullshit at that. This person has the ability to see what’s happenging, but it doesn’t affect her, and other women just don’t occur to her. Her husband’s penis, to use her strawfeminist, oppresses her. How coy. Why, how CUTE! Isn’t that just adorable? Sexism is just words on apage to her. Yeah, it bothers you? Then don’t go around lobbing strawfeminists. What next? OMG, those mean nasty feminazis bitched at me cuz I shaved my legs?

  66. the15th
    the15th October 7, 2006 at 6:36 pm |

    It’s not strawfeminist. This is a thread to discuss the idea, expressed by a real feminist, that a woman who is attached to things like marriage and fashion cannot be acting as a result of “personal autonomy,” and that if she were honest, she would “concede” as much.

  67. AM
    AM October 7, 2006 at 7:01 pm |

    “…displaying and accentuating the markers of the female body that reduce women to walking tits and ass–fuckable commodities– that can’t run away…” Clothes don’t reduce women to tits and ass. People reduce women to tits and ass. Some people do it regardless of what a woman’s wearing. When you get pissed off over what other women choose to wear it comes across an awful lot like you’re assuming a certain claim over her body.
    Women and men, people in general tend to want / need attention and praise. These needs are innate to humans and yes partriarchy exploits them but it doesn’t deny them. You can’t piss all over someone’s innate needs, make them feel ashamed about having those needs and expect them to just say “Why thank you so much. Can I join your team?”

  68. tigtog
    tigtog October 7, 2006 at 7:12 pm |

    #57:but the moment you suggest that there’s no utility in giving in on a few cosmetic things–or learning to enjoy them–and no value for survival, you’re veering off into ridiculousness.

    Then who are you arguing against? That mastering these patriarchally approved areas is part of a survival skill-set more than a freely autonomous choice was exactly Twisty’s point. I’m certainly not sneering at those who master the skills they feel are needed to survive. And if one’s mastered a difficult skill, why not enjoy demonstrating your proficiency?

    Still, seeing as the discussion has nearly totally devolved to discussing femme clothing/grooming choices only, if patriarchal approval wasn’t what was required for females to be safe in the world through being accepted in the workplace (let alone the rest) how many would bother with expensive supersleek grooming product and constricting, shoddily made and overpriced clothing every single day when they could wear something comfortable, long-lasting and reasonably priced instead?

    Playing with fragile ephemeral fashions for a party, why not? Why not for both sexes? But having to wear ephemeral overpriced fashion to work every day or be ridiculed/pitied and held back from promotions is not play, having to wear ephemeral overpriced fashion every day or be divorced is not play, even if you’re justifiably proud of how well you’re succeeding in patriarchy’s challenge.

  69. tigtog
    tigtog October 7, 2006 at 7:39 pm |

    #61: This is a thread to discuss the idea, expressed by a real feminist, that a woman who is attached to things like marriage and fashion cannot be acting as a result of “personal autonomy,” and that if she were honest, she would “concede” as much.

    The institution of marriage is not the only way to have a loving intimate relationship. The patriarchy heaps religious disapproval on and places institutional barriers (tax, insurance, inheritance) before those who have intimate partnerships but do not marry.

    Following fashion trends is not the only way to enjoy playing with costume and grooming. Costumes outside the fashion industry’s purview are scorned as “unprofessional” and “weird” and (horrors) “unfeminine”, and societal barriers to employment and influence result.

    Being deeply attached to the huge societal edifices that are marriage and fashion is an acculturated desire based totally on patriarchal approval. When the price for choosing to openly cohabit rather than marry, or not wear heels/makeup to work, can be enormous societal and financial disadvantage, how can anyone say that their choice to embrace marriage and fashion is simply personal preference? The choice to embrace marriage and fashion may have immense personal utility, but that doesn’t make it purely autonomous.

  70. shartheheretic
    shartheheretic October 7, 2006 at 8:53 pm |

    I consider myself a strong feminist…I have gone through stages in my life when I refused to wear “feminine” clothes and heels because I felt I was somehow “betraying the cause” from all I hear and read from others. As I get older, I realized that for me, being a feminist is also about being the person I am, and if I feel like wearing a flowy peasant skirt or 3-inch heels so I don’t have to spend extra money getting pants taken up 2 inches, I’m going to do so.

    And for those who say wearing heels eliminates the possiblilty of running, it’s just a matter of practice…they also make really good weapons when removed and smashed into the side of someone’s head (I’m not kidding – especially if its a relatively thick heel).

  71. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 7, 2006 at 10:23 pm |

    Okay, so now that I’m home, ginmar, I’m officially calling a truce for the whole Biting Beaver situation.

    Let’s work on some real issues.

  72. belledame222
    belledame222 October 7, 2006 at 10:48 pm |

    >Nobody wants to think that their “own” “personal” “individual” tastes, choices, feelings, pleasures are tainted by the horrible patriarchy.>

    You know, phrased as such, this implies that one has accepted the framework: e.g. there is a monolithic patriarchy which “taints” everything it touches.

    And that ideally we would all be purged from the taint, and must be doing whatever we can in that vein, even while realizing that we can never be completely “clean,” not really.

    I find the framework of “patriarchy” useful sometimes (although i tend to be more specific about it than i think some people would prefer); lord knows i don’t deny the existence of institutionalized sexism; and yet, you know, i get annoyed at the assumption that we all agree that there is a TAINT. This is not how i go about activism; this is not my worldview.

    Lately i have been coming to the conclusion that actually, this…approach? is actually rooted, in part, in our collective Christian heritage, and particularly certain variants thereof. Original sin; fallen creation; we must be reborn and “cleansed;” change comes from within; faith at least as much as works.

    This is not where I come from. Where I’m from, the transaction is more:

    “You fucked up (against your fellow human critters). Go fix it.”

    It’s not about -taint.- It’s about: is such and so hurting anyone? How so, concretely?

  73. belledame222
    belledame222 October 7, 2006 at 10:55 pm |

    btw, you know: if you put things in quotes, i.e. “these things are all oppressing me” or “those radfems are so mean to [me],” it suggests that someone has actually said those things in so many words. Perhaps I missed the place where plucky punk or anyone else actually said either of these things.

  74. KnifeGhost
    KnifeGhost October 8, 2006 at 12:22 am |

    Word to belledame222.

  75. Argent
    Argent October 8, 2006 at 7:32 am |

    Re Comments 60 and 61 – Yes, ‘androgynous’ or ‘gender neutral’ = disguising my female traits (breasts, hips, waist) and by extension, appearing typically ‘male’ in sillouette – straight up and down from shoulders to hips. (Not to mention this style is uncomfortable to wear, what with excess fabric folding and creasing).

    A male wearing a close fitting t-shirt has his outline delineated. Me wearing the same style t-shirt has folds of fabric from the shirt being too small in some areas and too big in others. Wearing a t-shirt that fits me *follows* my curves – and therefore doesn’t hide them. Which makes it ‘feminine’. You can’t win.

    (Plus, can I ask if I’m missing something here? Heels, makeup and skirts may be corporate uniform in some cases – wear it or lose the job. Heels, makeup and skirts may be fun occassional dressup clothes. Comfort may also be an issue – generous thighs are more comfy in skirts, esp. in summer. I see it more that it is circumstance rather than heels/makeup that’s the issue, for me anyway. Sometimes heels are fun so you’re taller. Nothing more.)

  76. Argent
    Argent October 8, 2006 at 9:05 am |

    Oooh, correction: ” generous thighs are more comfy in skirts” should be ‘generous thighs *can be* more comfy in skirts – mine are.

  77. shannon
    shannon October 8, 2006 at 9:14 am |

    I think a problem is that the feminine body has a lot of variation. I can wear a male style shirt just fine as well, many men have breasts larger than mine. I prefer shorts to skirts as I will never remember to sit properly or walk slowly.

  78. ginmar
    ginmar October 8, 2006 at 11:07 am |

    It strikes me that it’s awfull classist to bitch about a strawfeminist “my husband’s penis is oppressing me.” Rich women only get oppressed by their husband, or by a select group of men. Poor women get oppressed by everybody—oppresser and oppressed, as men make themselves feel better about their own oppression by standing on women.

  79. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 8, 2006 at 12:24 pm |

    It strikes me that it’s awfull classist to bitch about a strawfeminist “my husband’s penis is oppressing me.” Rich women only get oppressed by their husband, or by a select group of men.

    Hey, I thought we called a truce?

    (And I’m classist? Nice to know, I thought I was ass-broke, living off credit and paying my way through college with a kid. Less than ten years ago I was homeless, nice to know I’ve finally made it to classist!)

    And as for the “my husband’s penis is oppressing me,” I was deliberately exaggerating for purposes of hyperbole. Is that not allowed anymore? Or is it only not allowed when dissing the cool kids?

    Well, in that case, let me explain what really bothers me about ‘examine your life choices,’ especially coming from someone with the opposite choices of mine. What is the goal of the examination supposed to be? What conclusion am I supposed to come to? If it’s something other than to stop doing those things, please explain to me how, because I’m not getting it.

    And really, it’s a moot point because it doesn’t matter how you dress, or what shoes you wear, or if you get married or only buy big black effective toolkits or remain childfree for life or whatever. Because the patriarchy is going to oppress you anyway.

    For evidence, see Biting Beaver’s situation.

    So all this harping on women like me who got married to a man and had a baby and indulge in fashion is totally pointless. So, to paraphrase Noelle commenting on my blog, dress however your comfortable (and I am dressed comfortably, thank you,) and life your life in a way that exploits the least amount of people possible while fighting for change in things that matter. That’s fighting the patriarchy.

  80. nerdlet
    nerdlet October 8, 2006 at 1:15 pm |

    btw, you know: if you put things in quotes, i.e. “these things are all oppressing me” or “those radfems are so mean to [me],” it suggests that someone has actually said those things in so many words. Perhaps I missed the place where plucky punk or anyone else actually said either of these things.

    Okay, here’s the exact quote, which I quoted at the beginning of my post and didn’t think it was necessary to precisely repeat a few lines later:

    “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the information that I’m a tool of the patriarchy and my hair, clothes, shoes, makeup, and husband’s penis are all oppressing me.”

    Is that so terribly different?

  81. zuzu
    zuzu October 8, 2006 at 1:43 pm | *

    Well, what *is* she supposed to do with this information?

    Calling her classist is just attacking her, and doesn’t do anything to answer her question. Unless the answer is “feel guilty.”

  82. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 8, 2006 at 1:46 pm |

    Thank you, zuzu. I was starting to feel a little alone.

  83. Joanna
    Joanna October 8, 2006 at 1:47 pm |

    Belledame, you quoted the whole sentence, but then went after just one word (I’m sure there are some people who view oppression through a Christian lens of “fallen” society, but that would not be me). Just to clarify, since I wrote the sentence– “Tainted by the horrible patriarchy” along with the quotation marks about “own” etc, was used rhetorically as an exaggeration, to call attention to the defensive energy of this discussion. Ironic, but I realize irony doesn’t always work the way we want it to. Which is more or less my point, no? I made my original comment because I am interested in the incredibly repetitive and circular nature of this dynamic, which I see all over the boards. If we set aside the particular details about clothes, make-up or whatever, I see a lot of dead-end arguments between people who have an analysis that emphasizes how individuals are caught up in forces larger than they are (which I refer to as ideology and sometimes shorthand as patriarchy, although I agree that it is a reductive term) and people who have an awful lot of confidence in the power of individual intention to overcome structural inequality, and who seem to take it personally when someone points out that all of our behavior is meaningful in ways that we do not completely control. I’m more interested in seeing how these two approaches might intersect than in jumping down someone’s throat over not saying something EXACTLY right.

  84. Bill
    Bill October 8, 2006 at 1:59 pm |

    For most of us, our goal is life is to be happy. There are choices we make in trying to achieve this goal. Examining our preconceptions can widen our palette of choices, making it possible for us to select previously unavailable choices that make us more happy.

    As a het man, I was once under the patriarchal view that only certain types of women could be considered attractive. Feminism opened my mind to realizing my views of attractiveness were shaped by the patriarchal messages I’d received since birth. Once I accepted this fact, I became more comfortable accepting that I found women attractive even when they were outside the narrow definition of attractiveness in patriarchal society. My choices were widened, making me happier.

  85. Bill
    Bill October 8, 2006 at 2:05 pm |

    Even though feminism widens our palette of choices, we still live in a patriarchal society that shuts of certain choices, regardless of a person’s feminism. For example, even the most passionate feminist does not have the choice to wear whatever she wants without being judged by society. Feminism may make her realize she has the choice to wear what she wants, but it doesn’t give her the choice not to be judged by society. It doesn’t give her the choice to go without make up and not be fired from certain jobs. All our choices are still constrained by patriarchy, but feminism can help to open up choices that were previously unavailable.

  86. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 8, 2006 at 2:06 pm |

    My choices were widened, making me happier.

    Yes, but your choices were narrow to start with. It’s really not analagous to the situation I’m talking about.

  87. Bill
    Bill October 8, 2006 at 2:49 pm |

    If your choices are already as wide open as they can be under today’s patriarchal constrictions, then there’s nothing more you can do. Just select those choices that make you happiest. We can hope the choices you make do not constrict the range of choices available to other women, and if you learned that your choices did limit the choices of other women, those choices would no longer make you happy.

  88. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 8, 2006 at 3:04 pm |

    If your choices are already as wide open as they can be under today’s patriarchal constrictions

    Well, that’s an exaggeration of what I’m trying to say but fine.

    What I meant by my last comment was thay you broadened your choices with feminism, but what is being suggested by Twisty is actually a narrowing of choices.

    Do I sometimes wear just sweats and no makeup? Yell yes, especially since the baby’s born. That’s what I’m wearing now. Do I always wear heels? Of course not.

    So right now I have the ability to choose from a wide array of “looks” (for lack of a better term) but I should eliminate some because the patriarchy says those are “good?” How is that any different from sticking only to the ones the patriarchy says are good? You’re still defining yourself in terms of the patriarchy.

    And the patriarchy is going to get you no matter how you dress. You can’t save yourself from it by dressing a certian way or using tools of a certian color or any of the things Twisty mentions. Why should I waste energy dressing in a way that is both uncomfortable to me physically and mentally?

    if you learned that your choices did limit the choices of other women, those choices would no longer make you happy.

    And here’s the other thing. How are my choices limiting the choices of others? Instead of putting all the focus on feminists like me, why not work on improving access to emergency contraception and abortion, or working for higher pay, or better education, or better child care, or getting universal health care, or working to stop domestic violence or whatever.

    Tch. I’m completely bored of these navel-gazing gender flamewars. I’m going to try to avoid them from here on out.

  89. zuzu
    zuzu October 8, 2006 at 3:34 pm | *

    If your choices are already as wide open as they can be under today’s patriarchal constrictions, then there’s nothing more you can do. Just select those choices that make you happiest. We can hope the choices you make do not constrict the range of choices available to other women, and if you learned that your choices did limit the choices of other women, those choices would no longer make you happy.

    The hell?

    Bill, you’re a het man. Before you start lecturing women on not restricting the choices of other women, shouldn’t you be putting a little thought into how *your* choices restrict the choices of women? I mean, it’s nice to know you’ve broadened the range of grooming options you find attractive in women, but did it occur to you that by reducing this to what *you* find attractive, you’re taking the focus off women’s choices and making it about yours? That you’re reducing this whole debate to what you find sexually attractive in a woman?

    Moreover, before you start slinging around accusations that some woman’s choices are limiting the choices of other women, perhaps you could be a little more specific about just which choices you’re talking about.

  90. Bill
    Bill October 8, 2006 at 3:54 pm |

    Real classy, zuzu. I love how you automatically assume I don’t put thought into how my choices affect women’s choices. Further, it really makes me happy to see how you twist the common writing device of illustrating a point by example into a case of patriarchal strutting by a het man. I’m relating an example of how feminism has improved my life and how it could analogously improve anybody else’s life, whether male or female. Last, I was trying to respond to a question, which happened to be raised by a woman. I wasn’t trying to lecture all women from the privileged position of my heteromasculinity.

  91. zuzu
    zuzu October 8, 2006 at 4:02 pm | *

    Well, Bill, you need to consider your audience before you come in wagging your finger. You waltz into a discussion among feminists and start talking about what turns you on, it’s not going to be terribly well-received.

    You may think you’ve answered a question raised by a woman, but all you’ve done is lecture her, and vaguely at that. *Which* choices are you identifying as harmful to other women? *What* is the harm? And *who* are you to determine that?

  92. Nick Kiddle
    Nick Kiddle October 8, 2006 at 4:04 pm |

    So right now I have the ability to choose from a wide array of “looks” (for lack of a better term) but I should eliminate some because the patriarchy says those are “good?” How is that any different from sticking only to the ones the patriarchy says are good? You’re still defining yourself in terms of the patriarchy.

    That reminds me of a book I once read by a psychologist who saw a lot of people who had grown up with abusive parents. She said that they went to one extreme or the other: either doing exactly what their parents demanded of them or doing exactly the opposite. Either way, they were still letting their “entangled” relationship with their parents make their decisions for them.

  93. Bill
    Bill October 8, 2006 at 4:07 pm |

    accusations that some woman’s choices are limiting the choices of other women, perhaps you could be a little more specific about just which choices you’re talking about

    My writing may have been unclear, but my point was to warn against absolute choice feminism. Even though feminism is commonly associated with expanding women’s choices to improve women’s lives, individuals should still consider whether their choices will have the effect of limiting other women’s choices. For example, an affluent woman with the choice to “opt-out” should consider whether her choice will increase the pressure on all women to not be part of the workforce.

  94. zuzu
    zuzu October 8, 2006 at 4:14 pm | *

    I don’t think anyone’s advocating absolute choice feminism. And I think we’re all aware that certain things are problematic even as they’re tools for surviving within the patriarchy. But what value does it have for women to feel pressured to “opt out” of, say, wearing accepted business attire and the makeup and shoes and hose and haircuts that go with it because those things are things foisted upon us by the patriarchy — especially if it then renders that woman unemployable?

  95. nerdlet
    nerdlet October 8, 2006 at 4:15 pm |

    Well, what *is* she supposed to do with this information?

    Calling her classist is just attacking her, and doesn’t do anything to answer her question. Unless the answer is “feel guilty.”

    Eh, I did make a list of suggestions, but everything I wrote was ignored except for the supposed misquoting. Whatever.

  96. Bill
    Bill October 8, 2006 at 4:23 pm |

    what value does it have for women to feel pressured to “opt out” of, say, wearing accepted business attire

    I understand you to be saying we shouldn’t be, in a sense, blaming the victim and expecting the victim to be carrying the load of breaking down the patriarchy. And I agree. I see feminism as a tool that men and women can use to see how patriarchy falsely limits the available choices, but this increased consciousness shouldn’t make women feel guilty for taking the best choice available available under an oppresive system.

    On a side note, I wasn’t intending to cause offense with my comment and was surprised you were offended. Please delete this paragraph if it’s too narcissistic, but is it out of bounds to mention how feminism has made me realize how much of beauty is a construct? Was it the tone, or the content of my post that was problematic?

  97. zuzu
    zuzu October 8, 2006 at 4:24 pm | *

    And the question that continues to go unanswered is, once one considers the effect that one’s choices may have on other women, what does one do with that information? How wide of a circle of women have to be affected?

  98. zuzu
    zuzu October 8, 2006 at 4:26 pm | *

    Eh, I did make a list of suggestions, but everything I wrote was ignored except for the supposed misquoting. Whatever.

    The list at #63 or so? I think that falls under “feel guilty.”

  99. Bill
    Bill October 8, 2006 at 4:29 pm |

    Other than saying that women should avoid being Aunts as in the Handmaid’s Tale, I don’t have an answer to that question, and I apologize for trying to engage in a discussion where I’m still naive.

  100. Joanna
    Joanna October 8, 2006 at 4:50 pm |

    Bill, for what it’s worth, I thought you were doing a good job of using “I sentences” instead of telling other people how they should think.

    Zuzu, if we can turn the heat down a little, I think your question is indeed one we are all here sincerely, if sometimes heatedly, trying to figure out: when we do the work of self-reflection, for what purpose is it? I myself wouldn’t presume to tell an adult what she should wear, but I might think it was a good idea to have a conversation on the various meanings that what we wear may have in different locations or contexts.
    I have been thinking about this in connection with my 12 year old daughter. I don’t want to tell her what to wear, because fighting with your kids over clothes is a waste of time. She wants to paint her nails black? fine with me But I want her to think about what it means if she walks down the street with a t-shirt that says “you’re stupid” or another one that says “Princess” or something. Maybe I’d be thrilled if she wore a t-shirt that said “nobody can tell I’m a lesbian” some day, but I don’t think she’s old enough to handle some of the consequences of that quite yet. Maybe in high school? I don’t know, but clearly it’s my job to help her learn that her choices of self-expression will make an impression on others.
    As I said somewhere else in a similar conversation, your question what next? might be answered by “keep thinking, keep talking, keep sharing your insights, and if you don’t think the shoe fits, don’t insist on wearing it.”

  101. zuzu
    zuzu October 8, 2006 at 5:05 pm | *

    Zuzu, if we can turn the heat down a little, I think your question is indeed one we are all here sincerely, if sometimes heatedly, trying to figure out: when we do the work of self-reflection, for what purpose is it? I myself wouldn’t presume to tell an adult what she should wear, but I might think it was a good idea to have a conversation on the various meanings that what we wear may have in different locations or contexts.

    The problem, I think, is that we’re having this discussion among women who have already done this kind of self-reflection. So then the question becomes, what do we do with this other than feel guilty about the choices we continue to make that are in line with the patriarchy’s wishes? Or, alternately, attack women who do make those choices?

    Twisty’s original quote was right on IMO. It’s understandably difficult for women who like these seemingly fun, frivolous things to accept that they’re tools for surviving in the patriarchy and not as fun or weightless as one might have supposed. But once one has accepted them thus, how is one supposed to feel about continuing to employ them? And how should one feel about other women who berate you for continuing to employ them?

  102. nerdlet
    nerdlet October 8, 2006 at 5:15 pm |

    The list at #63 or so? I think that falls under “feel guilty.”

    Well, I don’t think it does. I think there’s a wide gap between feeling guilty over something and being aware that not all the choices you make are pro-feminist, nor should they be. I do many things that I don’t think are defensible by feminist philosophies*, and yeah, I even like some of them, and yeah, I even think I’d like some of them if I hadn’t been socially conditioned to like them. But I don’t know that, and I don’t try to pretend that I totally understand my own desires and that they’re innate, or think it’s relevant to feminist discussion to go on about how I absolutely love certain patriarchy-approved actions.

    I mean, as one example that’s not going to get all TMI, I can hear “wearing makeup is not a feminist action,” and I can totally agree, and I can wear makeup anyway because I know that this statement doesn’t = “no true feminist wears makeup.” Even if I were harassed by other feminists for wearing makeup (hasn’t happened), the social pressure to wear makeup would still be bigger than the feminist pressure to give it up, and so it’d be pretty weird of me to flip out at a small group of feminists because they made me feel bad while all the rest of society is cheering me on. I wear makeup because I feel ugly without it. That’s why I’m not going to stop doing it, and it doesn’t make me anti-feminist, and it doesn’t make me feel guilty.

    As for “what is to be done,” that totally depends on the “thing” that’s being discussed. Blowjobs and high heels and pink and porn and breastfeeding are not the same things when we’re talking about social pressures, biology, the physical sensations involved, the psychological feelings involved, the variety within each experience, the experiences in different cultures, human nature under the patriarchy, human nature under the feminist utopia, whatever whatever – so how can there be one single answer for any of those if they’re all grouped together like that? Twisty did group them together in the initial quote, and I don’t know if she considers all patriarchy-approved female behaviors/actions/products the same, but I don’t, so I can’t give any precise answer for “what do I do about all this?” if that’s the question. I can offer my opinion and say what I do about individual behaviors/actions/products and that’s it.

    *And my other personal philosophies: almost everyone does, I’m sure. I don’t always shop at places that treat their workers well because I don’t have a lot of money to spend though I could surely afford to shop at better places if I gave up some personal luxuries, I’m sure I own clothing that’s the product of sweatshop labor though I try to avoid the most obvious offenders, I make fun of people behind their backs, I want to get rid of animal cruelty but I love meat so much, I pay money for sexist and racist entertainment in various media, I sometimes even laugh at sexist and racist and other nasty jokes, and so on. Some of these things I can improve, some I won’t or don’t want to, but I’m not going to brag about any of them or make fun of people who say it’s not a progressive action to shop at store. Eh.

  103. belledame222
    belledame222 October 8, 2006 at 6:13 pm |

    >I mean, as one example that’s not going to get all TMI, I can hear “wearing makeup is not a feminist action,” and I can totally agree

    Well and good; but does that imply that NOT wearing makeup is a feminist action? Because I for one don’t agree with that, either.

    1) context matters

    2) personal decisions like that may be informed by one’s feminist principles (or not), but imo they are not ACTIONS. not in the “activism” sense.

    i mean, who or what exactly does it serve if you don’t put the slap on? and whom does it hurt if you do?

    i mean i guess by that standard i’m a GREAT activist, since i pretty much never wear the stuff anymore (or shave my legs, or wear heels, or diet, or…);and yet somehow, i just don’t really -care- what -other- women do or don’t do; and yet, i do have a lot of concerns related to feminism, funnily enough.

  104. belledame222
    belledame222 October 8, 2006 at 6:20 pm |

    >The problem, I think, is that we’re having this discussion among women who have already done this kind of self-reflection. So then the question becomes, what do we do with this other than feel guilty about the choices we continue to make that are in line with the patriarchy’s wishes? Or, alternately, attack women who do make those choices?>

    I agree; and it’s annoying to me that when this question gets asked, the response seems to be now something along the lines of (several times, now): Ohhh, poor you, feeling GUILTY because of big ol’ bad FEMINISTS. well, we all do what we can; is this SO much to ask? yaddadadadada.

    wrong framing.

    i don’t feel “guilty.” i feel “invaded” (when grilled like that by more-feministier-than-thou-ers). But mostly: irritated. And kind of bored. yah, like zuzu said: lots of us have been to that rodeo; some folks decided to wear the stuff anyway; others of us, not. Now what? Keep nagging every other woman in the world until we’re all free of the dreaded lippy (which is not, i repeat, always a symbol of something the “patriarchy” WANTS one to wear; and in any case…well, i’ll get to that)? Okay. And then? the porn, right? Okay: so no more high heels; no more lipstick; no more femme accoutrements of any kind whatsoever; no more “pornstitution…” (and thus, by some peoples’ belief system, that will lead to “no more rape or abuse”)… did i leave anything out? Reproductive rights. well, yeah, that’s an important one, and a really fraught one right now. So, sure, let’s throw in that that as well, why not. We won the reproductive rights battle.

    And now? Are we done? Is that it? I just want to be clear, here.

  105. belledame222
    belledame222 October 8, 2006 at 6:26 pm |

    …and again, i am reminded of this quote:

    But it is not enough to stand on the opposite river bank, shouting questions, challenging patriarchal, white conventions. A counterstance locks one into a duel of oppressor and oppressed; locked in mortal combat, like the cop and the criminal, both are reduced to a common denominator of violence. The counterstance refutes the dominant culture’s views and beliefs, and, for this, it is proudly defiant. All reaction is limited by, and dependent on, what it is reacting against. Because the counterstance stems from a problem with authority–outer as well as inner–it’s a step towards liberation from cultural domination. But it is not a way of life. At some point, on our way to a new consciousness, we will have to leave the opposite bank, the split between the two mortal combatants somehow healed so that we are on both shores at once and, at once, see through serpent and eagle eyes. or perhaps we will decide to disengage from the dominant culture, write it off altogether as a lost cause, and cross the border into a wholly new and seperate territory. Or we might go another route. The possibilities are numerous once we decide to act and not react.

    –Gloria Anzaldua, via Slant Truth

  106. nerdlet
    nerdlet October 8, 2006 at 6:30 pm |

    Yup, context matters. I don’t think going without makeup is a feminist action except in some situations. I don’t think that’s illogical – not everything in the world has opposing forces. Swiping someone’s wallet is thievery, refraining from swiping someone’s wallet isn’t an anti-thievery action. I’m sure there are better metaphors.

    As far as hurting… well, it’s supporting an industry that tells women they’re not good enough, that they need to buy this product in order to look a certain way and uses airbrushed supermodels to demonstrate. They’re also one of the biggest promoters of the idea that women do naturally look a certain way and that makeup is just fixing that for the few who don’t.

    Another reason is that when most women do something, it’s harder for any one woman to stop because then she’ll stand out. This is a tricky/weird thing, and applies to all kinds of stuff, and is really hard, because it can’t be done with just one person stopping , it has to be a ton of people stopping but they’re pretty much all going to be doing it on their own.

    Anyway, back to work.

  107. belledame222
    belledame222 October 8, 2006 at 6:34 pm |

    and by the way: i really dislike the assumption that all women who like a bit of beauty–however they define it, “tainted” by the “patriarchy” or not–must needs be “privileged” and thus “classist.” Maybe for some women a bit of lippy -is- one of the few bright spots in a grim, miserable, ground-down existence. Are you going to tell them that they must needs give that up, too? That somehow throwing that tiny pleasure in the trash will bring–well, what? The end of the patriarchy? The liberation of her well-Birkenstock-heeled sisters? What the fuck. Why would you do this?

    And finally: goddamit, i’m so weak, but i have to say this:

    i really love criticisms of -other- women being “classist” in the context of showers of praise for yet another “radical feminist” proclamation by a former restuarant critic and “gentleman farmer” who pretty much never includes any class analysis at all in her diatribes against the “patriarchy.”

    just sayin’.

  108. belledame222
    belledame222 October 8, 2006 at 6:40 pm |

    Another reason is that when most women do something, it’s harder for any one woman to stop because then she’ll stand out. This is a tricky/weird thing, and applies to all kinds of stuff, and is really hard, because it can’t be done with just one person stopping , it has to be a ton of people stopping but they’re pretty much all going to be doing it on their ownAnother reason is that when most women do something, it’s harder for any one woman to stop because then she’ll stand out. This is a tricky/weird thing, and applies to all kinds of stuff, and is really hard, because it can’t be done with just one person stopping , it has to be a ton of people stopping but they’re pretty much all going to be doing it on their own

    Okay, see, that right there. Not on board. You know why?

    Not even so much because of “choice, we are all individuals, YES, WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS!”

    ..much a part of my (haha) makeup as that basic very American and culture/class-specific tenet no doubt it;

    but also:

    one of the OTHER legacies of institutionalized sexism is that women don’t do anything on their own.

    We’re very approval-oriented, iow. We’re trained to be. To please the menz, sure; but not just the men.

    It extends to other WOMEN, too.

    ESPECIALLY once you’ve decided to take the pledge and join the feminist train (choo! choo!)

    I mean, okay, if this is really about getting rid of the -inner patriarch, oppressor, what have you, before action in the real world;

    then consider this: WHY is it so hard to just say, “you know what, thanks, but i’m going my own way? Sorry you don’t approve, but I’m wearing this because it pleases ME. Not for the huz-bin, and not for you or the other wimmin in the collective either.”

    maybe THAT’s the real problem, here.

    “compulsory” is trickier than i think a lot of us would like to think.

    it ain’t always all about what’s in the media and what’s legally or at least at work forbidden or how the menz in the street act or what the individual patriarchs in one’s life tell one in so many words.

  109. shannon
    shannon October 8, 2006 at 6:53 pm |

    But a lot of the pressure from other women is to embrace the norm. So basically, that puts together with the pressure from the men, and the whole society to exert a greater pressure than say me saying on my website “I think high heels are stupid”.

  110. belledame222
    belledame222 October 8, 2006 at 6:53 pm |

    Joanna: I didn’t see what i wrote as jumping down your throat; it wasn’t my intention; i am sorry. you know, there’s been an awful lot of jumping all around, as often happens in these threads, and thus perhaps, you know, i’m a tad jumpier than i might otherwise be.

    anyway per fallen creation: here’s the thing:

    I am currently reading a Christian feminist thealogian that suggests that in fact the radical feminist understanding of the “patriarchy” is in fact an inversion of the Adam and Eve story, pretty much. She makes a pretty persuasive case, backed up with a lot of theoretical readings (Mary Daly, most notably, among many others) as well as her own experiences in feminist activism at the apex of this school of radical feminist thought, the early 80′s, at a womens’ anti-nuke camp in England.

    She’s not the only person i’ve ever read who’s noted something like this, but this book lays it out more clearly than anything i’d seen before. Angela West, “Deadly Innocence.”

    Her point being, i think, pretty much the same as the Anzaldua quote: ultimately, it isn’t enough to simply stand the old shibboleths on their head. Go deeper. Go farther. Keep looking. And then see where you want to go: maybe it’s NOT just damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t, at that. Maybe we’re just not looking in the right places, after all.

  111. zuzu
    zuzu October 8, 2006 at 6:54 pm | *

    Another reason is that when most women do something, it’s harder for any one woman to stop because then she’ll stand out. This is a tricky/weird thing, and applies to all kinds of stuff, and is really hard, because it can’t be done with just one person stopping , it has to be a ton of people stopping but they’re pretty much all going to be doing it on their ownAnother reason is that when most women do something, it’s harder for any one woman to stop because then she’ll stand out. This is a tricky/weird thing, and applies to all kinds of stuff, and is really hard, because it can’t be done with just one person stopping , it has to be a ton of people stopping but they’re pretty much all going to be doing it on their own

    What Belledame said about being individuals. Which, you know, is the problem that non-unionized employees have with taking principled refusal to comply with certain explotative practices. Without a union to back them up, they will be smacked down as individuals, and for an individual, the larger good that can be done is not worth the individual cost.

    In this sense, women are essentially nonunion, but because there’s no way to unionize them and provide them with a system of support, actions such as tossing one’s makeup have to be considered on an individual basis.

  112. belledame222
    belledame222 October 8, 2006 at 6:56 pm |

    Yea, shannon, but as i think you know, there’s more than just one norm; there are also subcultural “norms.” One might be in a feminist collective, for instance.

    and the thing is, the thing -is,- sure, -more women- are probably dealing with high heels and Cosmo 101 than they are the intricate incestuous pressures of the LabrysWimminPeace Camp, for instance;

    and yet, we are talking about trying to strike the ROOT of this thing, right?

    well, it seems to me that ONE of the -real- roots is that -desire to please at all costs.-

    and that simply transferring it from the menfolk and the mainstream to something more “radical” doesn’t actually get at the fundamental problem here.

  113. belledame222
    belledame222 October 8, 2006 at 6:59 pm |

    per zuzu: and again, i gotta say: with the general principle of that (the need to “unionize”), but, again: is tossing out the makeup -really- gonna make that big a difference, ultimately?

    i mean, i dunno, but if we -were- gonna find some way to take a collective stand against…stuff, i gotta say that even taking on the “beauty industry” (particularly if it’s as in: destroy; while leaving other “industries” pretty much untouched) isn’t real high on my priority list, all things considered.

  114. nerdlet
    nerdlet October 8, 2006 at 9:28 pm |

    1) I don’t disagree that this kind of thing is hard. I figured that was the point. I don’t agree that there’s no way to get large groups of women to “unionize” – I figured that was also kind of the point. It’s not like it’s an impossibility.

    2) I’m not saying “the beauty industry is the worst of them all,” it was an example. One example of many possible events or actions or situations or whatever, and not the actual issue at hand.

    3) The roots can be deeper, but that doesn’t mean that some of the leaves on the plant can’t be diseased as well? I don’t think it’s a “treating the symptom” issue, I think it’s far beyond simple metaphors.

  115. zuzu
    zuzu October 8, 2006 at 10:04 pm | *

    I don’t agree that there’s no way to get large groups of women to “unionize” – I figured that was also kind of the point. It’s not like it’s an impossibility.

    The problem with the union model is, who’s management?

  116. nerdlet
    nerdlet October 8, 2006 at 10:26 pm |

    Should I name someone? ’cause I don’t know. But there are feminist-identified celebrities with lots of time and money, and there’s greater and cheaper communication available for feminists than ever since the internet’s become so widespread. Someone could step up to the plate if they wanted to. It would have to be a self-appointment, of course, unless we’re talking about NOW or one of the few other influential feminist groups out there.

  117. zuzu
    zuzu October 8, 2006 at 10:37 pm | *

    No, in a union model, management would be men, or the patriarchy. But because that’s also made up of individuals, who would you negotiate with other than the individual men who make up your world?

  118. nerdlet
    nerdlet October 8, 2006 at 10:57 pm |

    I am really not sure where this argument is going, and I suspect we’re talking about entirely different things here. Forget it, I guess.

  119. belledame222
    belledame222 October 9, 2006 at 6:06 am |

    Well, this actually gets at a structural problem here:

    feminism, or at least the version(s) we’re talking about here, is supposed to be all about levelling the power imbalances, yeah-yeah? therefore: hierarchy: patriarchal: not good. and of course none of us would tell anyone what to do, directly; nonono.

    and yet, and yet.

  120. ACG
    ACG October 9, 2006 at 9:55 am |

    Belledamme, I really like the point you made – that while wearing makeup isn’t a “feminist action,” not-wearing makeup isn’t necessarily a feminist action simply through its opposite-ness.

    My aunt doesn’t wear makeup. She doesn’t shave her legs, doesn’t wear skirts, doesn’t wear high heels, didn’t start wearing a bra until it became uncomfortable for her to not do so. Do any of these things make her a feminist? No. She could be doing all of these things and looking the part, but if she’s sitting at home, blissfully unaware of the plight of women in today’s society, she’d be nothing more than a lump on a cushy recliner. What makes her a feminist is the fact that she does care, that she does donate to causes that have a positive impact on the lives of women, she does participate in the political process to try to influence legislation and change things at the top. Her influence throughout my life has been part of the reason I do the same things – but hasn’t been enough to stop me from wearing makeup and heels, because she and I both realize that the trappings of feminism don’t a feminist make.

  121. shannon
    shannon October 9, 2006 at 10:13 am |

    Feminine women are a mystery to me. Why would you want to please people you dislike? Subculture groups are chosen, in a way that you can’t choose what society you live in. If you think that being a Gothic Lolita or a member of the Lesbian Feminist Collective is too hard for you, you can just leave. You can’t just leave how society is set up, but if people work together collectively, they can make some improvements. The thing that has always confused me is when people choose to do something, and then get mad that they can’t choose the consequences or other people’s reactions. To me, that’s a law of nature, and I don’t see the big fuss about it. I can choose to wear high heels, but I can’t choose to make everyone in the whole world approve of it.

    If one’s politics don’t run in that direction, simply work on the bits you like, and don’t worry if other people have different political convictions.

  122. ginmar
    ginmar October 9, 2006 at 10:10 pm |

    I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with the information that I’m a tool of the patriarchy and my hair, clothes, shoes, makeup, and husband’s penis are all oppressing me.”

    Um, is there something I’m missing? If you’re rich, your’e rich. If you make fun of other womens’ oppression, you get called on it. It’s classist. You want me to make it pretty for all you college-educated feminists? WAnt it to feel better? Sorry, not my fuckin’ job. Saying mockingly —or with hyperbole, excuse my trailer park white trash ass—–that you get oppressed by your husband’s dick makes fun of women who ARE oppressed, not just some rich whtie yuppie asshole’s dick, but by LOTS AND LOTS of them.

    Oh, and by the way? Try quoting the whole fucking quote. Rich privileged women only get oppressed by select men of their own class, or by guys with a death wish and an attitude. Unprivileged women get oppressed by every asshole out there who has a dick. Do you really want to compare numbers? How do you know you’re oppressed? Count hte men that do it. If the only guy you have to worry about is your hubby, well, then, christ, wanna trade? ‘Cause I’ll do it in a second. Fact is, if you’re worried about things like your fucking shoes, makeup, and vibrator, you’re a whole fucking step above women who have to worry about being barefoot, uneducted, pregnant, raped, and all the rest.

    So, want to try it again?

  123. little light
    little light October 9, 2006 at 10:22 pm |

    Ginmar, can we go easy on the ad hominems? You’re making substantive points, and I think they’d stand well enough on their own without the side dish of abuse.

  124. plucky punk
    plucky punk October 10, 2006 at 1:43 am |

    Fact is, if you’re worried about things like your fucking shoes, makeup, and vibrator, you’re a whole fucking step above women who have to worry about being barefoot, uneducted, pregnant, raped, and all the rest.

    This is the last time I’m going to try to reply to anything you post about me, ginmar, because it’s pretty clear that you’re not listening.

    The whole point of my argument is that Twisty’s quote seems to show that *she* is the one preoccupied my shoes, makeup, and vibrator, which are all pretty inconsequential in the grand scheme of things when compared with all the other shit women have to face, including being barefoot, uneducated, pregnant, and raped.

    But you know, go ahead, and make me into whatever pretend boogeyman you want. I don’t care.

    But I will point out that it’s pretty dishonest of you to agree to a truce on over this on a thread at Pandagon and come back and snipe at me here.

    But whatever. I’m so done with this.

  125. ginmar
    ginmar October 10, 2006 at 5:43 am |

    Plucky, you need to take that damned strawfeminist back about your husband’s penis oppressing you then. As long as that’s out there—I don’t see that you’ve retracted your oversimplification of how intimate relationships include elaborate concessions to the patriarchy in favor of the strawfeminist of ‘my husband’s penis is oppressing me——there’s unfinished business. It reduces feminism to something that Ann Coulter would take shots at. Don’t like my attitude? Don’t do it to me first then.

    Little light I am sick to God of people saying that feminists say this and feminist say that. I shouldn’t have to fucking see it on a feminist board of all places. “My husband’s penis is oppressing me”? Like, how, does it detach and operate by remote control?

    And Belledame, are you attacking Twisty on the basis of her sarcastic self-assessment and lack of class analysis? She’s said some awfully offensive shit about the patriarchy, about those ‘empowerful sports-corseted women’ and anybody who caters to it. It’s really easy to appeal to the patriarchy. It’s effortless, in the sense that it works. Feminism gets in the face of the patriarchy and doesn’t do what it wants. It hasn’t exactly been hugely successful. Once again, look at BB.

  126. zuzu
    zuzu October 10, 2006 at 8:56 am | *

    Ginmar, simmer down.

  127. zuzu
    zuzu October 10, 2006 at 9:05 am | *

    And I will note, once again: you still haven’t answered just what the fuck plucky punk is supposed to do with this information that she’s better off than other women. If you can’t do more than attack her personally — or attack some construct of her, which is what you seem to be doing — then just fucking drop it already.

    Because all you seem to be doing is attacking plucky punk, and belledame, and everyone else who doesn’t agree with you, on the basis that they’re insufficiently guilt-ridden about the choices they make. But where the fuck, exactly, does being guilt-ridden get us? What the fuck good does it do women without shoes for a bunch of women with shoes to argue over whether those shoes properly reject the patriarchy?

  128. Feministe » Confessions of a Fun Feminist

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