That crazy Faux Real, Tho! blogger has a lengthy-but-worth it post up tying together some of the disparate hot topics in the feminist blogosphere lately. It’s actually titled, in part, “Class and Feminism,” but the topics explored are more wide-ranging than that (or maybe I just don’t appreciate the scope of class and feminism, which we should not rule out). Definitely check it out in full, but here are some excerpts to get you going:
By Linda Hirshman’s working feminist women model, I am the lumpenproletariat. I am the bitches that aren’t worth “saving,” us “single parents at Wal Mart.” I get to work, and work, and work, and nobody’s writing a manifesto for me and mine.
Is this contemporary feminism?
I hope not. Otherwise, to borrow from piny in the comments, white middle- and upper-middle-class feminists are going to be left with “a small and comfortable movement.” Other small-and-comfortable movements that have changed the world:
. . .
Um. Hmm. Uh, let’s see . . . .
Well, look: When I think of any, I’ll be sure to let you know. Does Kiwanis Club count?
Then there was this observation:
Welcome to the feminist blogosphere, where no one is allowed to process out loud without having taken a firm stand. Here we are, you, me, and the embodied feminist. Some asshole libertarian blogger said she was hot. Another asshole libertarian blogger said she was fat. Bimbo, dyke, floozy. Maribou, lace and lingerie. Slut, slut, ho, ho, privilege, silence, and ostracism. And the feminists gathered ’round, asking, Well, what was she wearing? What are her “concessions” to femininity — if “femininity” is frivolous and dishonest? Jill responded with another post, and plenty piled on to remind her that “fun” is not fun if patriarchal.
It’s this point above I particularly wanted to jump off on.
If you read feminist blogs regularly you know, I think, that the last few months have seen an eruption of discussions similar in theme to the one mentioned above. That one was over whether fun (and personal grooming habits) can ever transcend patriarchy. This one was over whether blow jobs could ever be anything but “fucking gross.” This one was over how much authority any individual woman has in evaluating her intimate experiences–”that was rape” versus “but I didn’t process it as rape,” to use a clumsy shorthand. And there have been others I’m sure I’m forgetting, doubtless because I wanted to; because no matter how much I say I love confrontation (and I do, I really, really do), I don’t think I’m alone in feeling that many of these confrontational discussions quickly went beyond productive dialogue, in the course of which We All Learned Something, to This Is Just Plain Exhausting, Please Stop.
Perhaps shockingly women, like any other human beings, have strong feelings about their lives. Not shockingly to anyone who pays even a little attention, women as a class are also well-used to having their experiences and their lives systematically devalued; that we even have (let along so regularly use) phrases like “women’s issues” and “female troubles” makes this plain. Not shockingly at all, women get especially defensive when other women they considered allies appear to indulge, even eagerly participate in, that same devaluation they’re already so used to getting from the patriarchy.
Are we agreed on this much? Are we clear that I am not labeling women the “more sensitive” sex, or the “more emotional” sex, or any of that nonsense? That I am blaming a system that makes any other reaction to criticism of women, by women, highly improbable? Not that relative placidity in the face of criticism is impossible for women, but that it is often damned difficult? And that this is not something women started, nor something for which they are to blame? Because the last thing I want to initiate with this post is more defensiveness.
So, ah, maybe I should quit being defensive myself.
These are the questions I’ve been wondering throughout all this:
1. In what ways, subtle and overt, do men urge each other to behave for the overall good of men as a sex?
I am thinking of instances like, you have three men at the water cooler, Greg and Jason and Andy, we’ll call them, and Greg asks Jason, “What’d you do this weekend?”
So Jason lists a bunch of household chores he performed, perhaps implying that some of them were done at his wife’s urging, and concludes that at the end of it all, he was too beat to do much of anything fun.
And Greg comes back with some variation of that old standard: “Wow. She’s really got you whipped, huh? Not even a game and a six-pack after all that.” And Andy promptly backs up Greg: “Tell me you at least got some pussy out of it, J,” and pretty soon the two of them are both razzing Jason, who gets the message: “Cooperating too much with your wife is not manly.” And the corollary messages: “Pleasing your wife makes the rest of us look bad.” “Pleasing your wife won’t bring you any happiness.” “Real men don’t aim to please their wives; real men find new wives who are pleased with them already.” Etc.
I am hoping the male Feministe readers can suggest some examples here, and also tell me whether I’m right, half-right, or wrong about the purposes these sorts of conversations serve.
2. In what ways do these “for the good of all the class” interactions vary, from the example I gave above, outside heterosexual and cisgendered circles? Do they occur at all? Is the main purpose behind them different? I’m showing my ignorance here, but I’m curious.
3. When women check each other’s feminisms, are we merely emulating what we see above us?
Here I must note something unpleasant: Men checking each other, making sure no guy gets too far outside the norms that help preserve male privilege, that whole business? It WORKS. Whether you refer to it as the old-boys network or the executive-washroom club or any of a dozen other expressions, that system of checking each other and keeping each other in line works. It takes a lot of pressure from outside the system, and often infiltration of the system, to make it crumble.
“Men are more united as a sex” is an idea I’ve seen articulated thousands of times in thousands of ways. Men themselves will often explain that with lazy references to biological imperatives, or evolution, or God, or anything that enables them to stress that the difference between the sexes is innate, not learned–because, gosh, ladies, you can’t expect us to change what’s innate!
But of course, one of the things I’m grateful to feminism for is its persistence in exposing just how vigilantly men have to stand, not only against outsiders, but against the potential traitors to male privilege they identify among themselves, in order to preserve that united front. Unsurprisingly, it is men who have been ostracized by other men in this way who are the most sympathetic to the idea that patriarchy hurts men, too, and often they make the best pro-feminist allies.
4. Does the fact that men routinely check each other in order to preserve male power make any variation of the practice inherently antifeminist? Is the whole process too corrupt for feminists to emulate ever? Does it mean that an observation of the form, “When one woman adheres to feminine beauty practices, she helps to make it more difficult for other women to shun them,” is always inherently antifeminist?
5. If checking each other does serve some useful feminist purpose (and I have not concluded definitively that it does), how should it be done to avoid winding up with “a small and comfortable movement?” I am of course assuming that none of us wants a small and comfortable movement. Me myself, I want a strong, diverse, wide-reaching, raging movement.
Take it away, Feministers. Tell me what you think, show me what you got. I’m gonna be over in the corner hugging my teddy bear and chanting “I love confrontation, yes I do,” as a mantra.