Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Be afraid of the lame
They'll inherit your legs
Be afraid of the old
They'll inherit your souls
Be afraid of the cold
They'll inherit your blood
Apres moi, le deluge
After me comes the flood

I must go on standing
You can't break that which isn't yours
I, oh, must go on standing
I'm not my own, it's not my choice

(soundtrack to the book. . .)

* * *

I was ranting to Jacob at the restaurant yesterday:

"I stayed up for an extra two hours after work to finish reading The Handmaid's Tale. I read it before, a long time ago, and didn't begin to understand.

Now I find it real, horrifying. Compelling."

I don't know why feminism feels so central to me. For all the substantial violence I've been subjected to in my life, there's little I can point to as concrete evidence of oppressive widespread patriarchy that doesn't come off as paranoiac whining.

Paper-thin parodies of liberatory thought that find their way into the popular consciousness don't scratch the surface of the problem that concerns me, personally, the most; I want to be taken seriously. Women are taken seriously at some things, a few things, but the largest parts of me are most interested in being in the places where we aren't taken seriously--continental philosophy, hardcore non-humanities scholarship, violence, emotion.

I want to be taken seriously without giving up fun.

And I want my priorities to be taken seriously, even when they don't match up with the patriarchal ideal--stay at home mothers, for instance, are not a solution to the complexities of adequate childrearing in an egalitarian society--and yet these complexities deserve to be understood, dealt with, respected, maybe even solved. Wanting to be safe, but not patronized by a "protector" (who himself is free to subject you to whatever he likes; see: God) is not "trying to have it both ways."

Still, I feel that I must be exaggerating; it can't be that bad.

The waitress came back with the receipt and returned my debit card to him.

Things are not done.


___________________________ said...

Hmm... feminism has never really been one of my pet projects. On some level, I am pretty sure that men and women will always be treated differently. I just don't know what this difference will mean. Perhaps I am wrong on this, but it seems to me that men are always going to be the group that tends towards extreme aggressiveness, including violence and criminality, and women will tend towards sociality and conventionality.

Could I be wrong on this? Sure, but I don't think everything is just social constructs in this issue. I also don't know what the result of my guess on reality ends up being. I mean, certainly part of the difference is culture, but how separate is culture from the rest? It seems that small distinctions might be exaggerated.

That being said, I saw the Smurfette Principle video, and I do think that something more substantive than tokenism needs to occur in media. I just don't know how different the world will be, as it already seems hard for me to unravel. Women are surpassing men on some metrics, and I doubt it is because of a "feminist spirit" so much as just some natural strength they have making them distinctive.

___________________________ said...

That metric that I've heard about is the numbers of women going to college.

I am not endorsing everything said there, but if the degree gap thing there is true then this is an oddity where I don't know how we will be affected.

That being said, there are places where women have not advanced very far, such as high-paying technologically oriented fields of study.(not saying that academics are everything, but they seem important) And this is quite relevant to any feminist cause.


SAC said...

So, if more women are going to/graduating from college but society as a whole is disrespecting women just as much as they always did... then the value of a college degree seems watered down, to the people in the society. I mean, if a woman could do it, it couldn't be that hard, right?

Which is not to say that this achievement gap (I have no reason to believe it isn't real) isn't bad news in terms of maybe we are letting our boys fall through the gaps more than we used to. Unfortunately, both can be true at the same time.

I, too, have frequently felt the pang of hunger for respect; but I have also often wondered whether this was unique to me, or to my sex, or if perhaps it wasn't (on the other hand) a major part of the Human Condition. We use gender or race or class or political views or moral views as excuses to disrespect, but perhaps in the end we would have found another (excuse) if the first hadn't worked.

It takes an awful lot of work to, first, see beyond the end of one's own nose (such a delightfully descriptive nineteenth-century expression) and, after that, to implement the vision. In my view, much of the work is introspective, and in a society which does not particularly value introspection, it sort of figures that such work is so often shoddily done.

Day said...

I wouldn't say society is disrespecting women just as much as they always did; I think we've made really fantastic progress in some places. I just don't think it's enough.

I agree with you that it's terribly important to pay careful attention to the possibility that bad experiences might be falsely attributed to racism or sexism. That's why I'm so worried about how into feminism I am right now. I do think, though, that it's worth paying attention in both directions.

___________________________ said...

I would have to think that your feminism is likely partially right, but I cannot know how right each particular theory is. There are going to be underlying sex differences, and these underlying sex differences are going to impact things in a manner that could make your feminism ethically questionable. However, this does not mean that this society is optimal in terms of equity towards both genders at all, and there is good reason to think it is not optimal. The problem is determining the optimal treatment.