Inspired by a quote via Deb’s I’m addressing something I’ve been meaning to for a while. I want to talk about ageism as it pertains to women and feminism.
Fact: I’m young in the birthdays sense (nope, you’re not getting a number outta me!). I have however, generally recognized, supported and promoted a very “second wave” feminism. I don’t do so to deliberately pit myself against those in similar age or fancy myself *better* because I’ve aligned with an older crew—that would be ageist. (I do, in actuality, agree with 2nd wave feminism and have for quite some time).
But what would also be ageist would be to ignore the women who came before *because* of their age, to feel their time has come and gone—that somehow my newer existence means my ideas and thoughts should be pushed ahead. That I am more relevant.
I have encountered plenty of (too many) feminists online and off, as well as women of varying ages, who flat out don’t want to hear from older feminists/other older women. And they aren’t alone. “Old people” as they are called are ignored and mocked and, for general purposes, hated. (I’m going to continue to use “old” from hear on out to address it more as a societal phenomenon than any particular way *I* label people).
The young hate the old. The old hate the old. And if either had their druthers about who to get the latest scoop from on women’s condition it certainly wouldn’t be the old.
The following portion of Deb’s quote especially moved me:
“What happened to the idea of respecting the elders. Didn’t we recognize the many ways patriarchy works in our culture and vow to disentangle ourselves?”
It occurred to me in reading this (pisaquari can be slooooow) how disrespecting our elders works in a patriarchal society: it largely silences older women. And more so, it silences feminists—for whom worse to learn the ways of the world than old, lonely deviates. Sweet older order would not have it.
If patriarchy can silence older women it can stop the flow of information, it can stagnate us. When older women speak they are ignored or not believed—and this is only accounting for the times someone is there to listen.
For feminism it creates a kind of perpetual motion, wherein we become hamsters on a wheel, regurgitating the same ole stuff and calling it new.
And if there is one recurring theme I have found in reading and blogging and immersing myself in this movement it’s that: This stuff has been said before.
What takes me months to figure out (if not, years) is in 8 different books already or has been said for hundreds of years and here I am just now connecting the dots (if I may utilize a patriarchal concept here: how inefficient!).
I find it sort of unimaginable to think about where women could be right now if our time was not so exhausted getting to these points—getting a fuller understanding of what’s already been done/said. What would the world look like (or how would it operate wrt women) if this knowledge base were more readily available—if our herstory and experiences were a part of our everyday growing and understanding.
The women who have come before are not so different, are not so foreign to us that we cannot share and learn and continue to grow together. Who are we to say amongst the living whose time is up? When we reestablish these divides we disservice ourselves, entire generations, and an entire movement. (And I should mention, very seriously, that I signed up for movement).
Feminists who came before, in many ways, are our revolution.
All right radfems of the Radfem Conspiracy Movement please answer the following…
Have you or any other radfem you know ever done the following things:
1. Said those involved in the sex industry do not deserve protection and safety.
2. Shamed or blamed a woman for her sexual behaviors.
3. Shamed or blamed a person for his/her activities or behaviors simply on the merit that they partake in those behaviors or activities.
–Extra credit to those who layout what they define as “blame” and “shame,” and how one manages to hate the system but not the individual.
Go little post…
(This post has been in draft stage for a while on the computer–needing some sort of catalyst to finish it. I found Laurelin’s latest strikingly similar–my post being more a microcosm as hers. So I have linked in suggesting you go read it!)
My last semester of college, as an elective, I took a general sociology course. For two days out of one week we talked about gender and what it meant to be a “girl/woman” or “boy/guy/man” (<<notice how they get the in-betweener “guy” stage so the poor dears don’t have to be infantilized/considered weak for TOO long).
You can’t believe how progressive it was: the males assuring the females “I don’t mind splitting the house chores!” and the females, “I’m going to be a working mommy!”–the class was really on to something.
Then the teacher, brave as she was, brought up the topic of the intersexed. This sort of stopped conversations, cue: uncomfortable vibe. She asked the class if, as parents, they bore an intersexed child, how would they handle the gender.
One white male in the room who sort of always unnerved me–you could cut his privilege with a butcher knife–snidely looked around the room: his progeny would never bear such a “defect!”
Then a hand in the front row. The guy that always bragged his girlfriend was “!!so totally awesome!!” because she “let” him play video games said, thoughtfully: “I would paint one side of the room blue and the other side pink and see what side the baby crawled to.”
Teacher thinks for a minute.
Still alert portions of the class nod their heads slowly.
Kidding,kidding,kidding! I didn’t die (you wish!).
Nope and to be completely honest I didn’t say anything. The teacher just two weeks prior had made some unintelligible remarks about “extreme feminists” (ewwwww) not shaving or wearing make up. So I busied myself in the back row braiding my armpit hairs…
Because, you see, what did this awesome class teach us the first week of the semester?
We learned: “What is a social construct?”
And why did we learn this?
Because, as the course was set up, social constructs would be foundationally responsible for all that we’d learn about human behavior, sociologically speaking.
And what the hell happened, you think, during *EVERY* class discussion? Of course, someone brought up that people can’t help doing X because YandZ are genetic/inherited/have been happening since men were using clubs on their wives/the birth of baby Jesus (right around the time we got prostitution and Earth).
And no, I don’t think the teacher agreed with everything. The impression I got was that she was non-confrontational.
(Believe it or not: the moral of this story is not “college students are getting dumber and dumber.” Though I wouldn’t fight it.)
I would have been a real pisser had I been all “Actually–there is no scientific proof we come out of the wombs preferring colors due to our genitalia” or something equally offensive because these people had proof: They always liked their assigned whatever for as long as they could remember. And they still do–they *can’t help it*.
Can’t-help-it became synonymous with innate/genetic in the class and I don’t see it so much differently on the internets. What often feels like an impossible change usually manifests as our perception of our “natural selves” or the way nature has MADE us, separate of our abilities to change. But what isn’t taken into consideration is how largely those feelings can be/are connected to some very strong social constructs. And I do mean strong–as in, my increased risk for a certain kind of cancer is seen as big a biological truth as my early attachment to dolls.
I conjecture, what might be complicating this, is that normally we don’t *feel* our biology or genetics so much. Of course as we age or, as certain inherited diseases take over, this changes (and even then I would argue our experiences of those are still affected as sifted through social constructs). What we feel a majority of the time about a majority of our experiences is based in, and relying on, social constructs.
And my point isn’t that those constructs are always bad or doomed–all it means is that they are subject to change (as so many have) and are game for discussion/modification/obliteration. It also doesn’t mean I think anyone is a *bad person* or to *blame* for feeling as if they cannot change what is being discussed. I can imagine much of what happens in our formative years seems quite dormant and innocuous–the subsequent effects manifesting in ways we still have trouble measuring.
But we cannot assume that *feeling* as if we cannot help something means it is our biological truth. In fact, as I explained here, I would argue it works the opposite way.
And if we are going to argue for change or revolution, naming our *feelings* as innate will be a massive undertaking of Square One-ing. That is, an immobile approach to improvement. Our feelings are important to evidence where we stand on certain matters, how far we have to go, how far we are willing to go in a certain lifetime, etc…. But they are not evidence of our possibilities or capabilities.
That they keep getting misconstrued as such is both insulting and limiting.
About two weeks ago my father asked me, “[Pisaquari], have you ever heard the phrase ‘too bold for her beauty’?”
“No” I said, though smelling a patriarchal infestation immediately.
“The DJ’s were talking about it this morning on the radio. It was something their girlfriends [wives?] brought up.”
Since I can no longer remember his version word for word I will summarize:Essentially, the significant others of these DJ’s had become cruel to a young woman who had newly begun hanging out with their “group”—group being those persons who made up the social gathering of friends and girlfriends to the DJ’s.
When the significant others were asked why they had become mean they responded “She is too bold for her beauty.”
This was then explained as: this woman, being “beautiful” as she was (patriarchal standards mind us!), was too outspoken, too forthright for her looks. For her beauty she would have to wait her turn to be accepted and to know what behavior was allowed—her embodiment of males’ physical desires to be balanced with blankness in mind and personality. As well, this woman was further alienated by the other women for not having known this Truth and for not having exercised it in the company of other women.
Dad asked me and my mom if this rule was true.
Without a beat: “Yep!” said mom. And then, bragging, “I was one of those girls too bold for her beauty.” (:::sigh:::)
My first thought was what great a clusterfuck of stupid, sadness, and oh-boy-patriarchy this was.
My own little self-esteem bubbles fizzled and I sort of snapped.
I said “Well were the DJ’s talking about her looks?!”
“Not that I can remember,” said dad. “They were just stunned some rule like this even existed.”
I told him I felt for all the women. I felt for the woman who was born into looks-privilege, for her entire life she would be the center of a scam on hu-Man sexuality and her own self worth–that the “beautiful” women were owned at birth, forced into the sexualized and romanticized lens of males without a choice (anti-sexy anybody?). Her genetic predisposition to patriarchy-approved face and body was an empty cause with no intrinsic value except to pit her against other women’s self esteem and appropriate more ladeez in the name of male entitlement to women’s physicalities and, you know, boners. (and yes—I recognize *many* women indulge and exploit this).
And, of course, I said I felt for the girlfriends/wives who knew too well their *place* amongst the Looks Hierarchy. For how could they not? How much of all our lives have we been forced to pick out amongst the crowd who the lucky lady is—who gets the attention of the masses. Perhaps, sometimes, it’s us with the focus and we gladly welcome it. Other times maybe we are second rate and note it quickly as the long-legged, long-lashed, high cheek-boned (or whatever) specimen walks in, much to the adoring googly-eyes of the men. The DJ’s significant others probably used some much sharpened instincts to spot Patriarchy’s trophy wife when she came in. And to counter this artificial Looks Hierarchy they had to create an artificial control mechanism—thus, “too bold for her beauty” was born.
too bold for her beauty
I was surprised such a perfect phrase, such a stunning summation of Universal woman-on woman hating had passed me by. But really, it had’t.
For I too have hated myself for my looks. I’ve hated other women for their looks. I’ve gone hungry for a jeans size. I had a shit relationship with my mirror for most of my adolescent years (now I would call it “decent”). I’ve crapped multiple meals-laxatives-to feel empty (<irony there). I’ve wished girlfriends would gain weight. I’ve dressed in a way to deliberately pry attention from other women’s significant others to show those other women I had something over them. I’ve visited make up counters to get pointers on how to better look like a *humble clown*. I’ve made fun of people’s looks. I’ve wanted someone for their looks. And everything I’ve listed here has been done to me or been self-inflicted by those I have called friends or loved ones.
Absolutely there is a continuum that we all fall on and sure it shifts by person but let’s GET REAL. There is a *reason* commercials sound like they are coming from an echo chamber. There is a *reason* most women want to lose weight, look younger, have smooth skin, a tighter butt, perkier breasts, and wear make up. There is a *reason* wrinkles are undesirable. There is a *reason* women in other countries, where Westernization is occurring, are getting plastic surgery to look like women in America. There is a *reason* ALL women, at some point in their life, suffer the bowels of low self-esteem from something so innocuous as “looks.” And there is a *reason* men continue to reinforce this with their behavior.
It comes with the territory: if you artificially pump value into the value-less (looks–as in, physical features) the loop holes will be large and the area/room for “error”, desperation, artificial goals and lotsa industries will be endless.
Our physical features are an empty (involuntary for the most part) facet of us with no inherent connection to sharing meaningful experiences with each other. Yet they dictate so much. They are used to facilitate and control our interactions at such a heightened level with such a broad scope. (yep, even seen/read radfems engaged in this nonsense–so no one is safe!)
So it is with sadness and no great surprise that I drearily end this “too bold for her beauty” post in hopelessness: Looks Hierarchy goes on. Self-hate goes on. Tummy tucks go on. Revlon goes on. Woman-on-woman hating goes on. “Beauty” goes on.
ALL of it–and not a bit of it worth our time.
Mandatory reading #2.
(This post spirals off the last one.)
Okay, so here is the scene: you are in a porn debate-the usual characters ablaze- and someone says this:
“Yes, I agree there is misogynistic porn but not ALL of it is misogynistic. I don’t agree with the stuff that’s abusive and exploitative…”
(you gotta love the middle-grounders, usually showing up like omnipresent peace-keepers because they’ve found a way to be “nonextremists!”)
So here is what I need to know: is anyone else ever confused by this? The “there’s good stuff and then there’s bad stuff” point (?). And just try to getting out of them what actually constitutes the “bad stuff”:
“You know, that stuff that degrades women”
No, the question is” what acts, what scene, what scenarios–how do you *know* it is degrading to women?”
So the wishy-washer finally takes a stab (thinking of total-worst-thing-ever, the always-misogyinistic-porn-no-matter-how-you-slice-it):
“Like, let’s say the guy pushed the girl down and beats her to a pulp and then calls her a whore and then holds her head down while he pushes a barbed dildo inside her mouth–while kicking her…then calls her a bitch…then he shoots her…”
(ummmm…??) ::::Silence::::: ensues as radfems momentarily accept the raised bar: now there are guns–even sex pozzes are a little surprised (*note: someone somewhere, however, wants to know where they can find this remarkable wankage footage). A few wan fence-jumpers comment “yeah, so not nice!” (And for a split of a split-second we have this smokescreen of agreement–cue dream sequence: Radfems and sex pozzes dust off the old champange bottles…kumbai gets pushed on the 8 track…the smell of glory…
Because hold on one minute!
Long-time-lurker-Lucy-whose-about-to-make-her-first-comment-ever! just has to say something. You see, she’s been reading this thread, and she is a feminist too and she and her boyfriend did this very thing last night! (She’s got the bullet wound to prove it!) And you know what?
She *chooses* to do this. She wakes up every morning as a free agent with no abuse history and all these options and she *chooses* this. So now what beeetches??!
Welllllll “fuck!” Nice while it lasted, right?
Because we can’t question this person and, invariably, this porn because there is now proof someone can *choose* this type of sexual exchange. Aren’t we now diminishing this woman’s choice somehow? Is it possible for a woman contribute to, or participate in, a misogynistic act that is simultaneously chosen *and* orgasmic (bc. thats.never.happened).
And you and I both know, it doesn’t matter how awful/unhealthy/misogynistic the porn sounds/seems we are talking about–there will *always* be someone to show up with their power play and choice mantras (talking about sex like it’s a fucking magic trick: Consent–now you see it, now you don’t! TaDa!) to defend it.
The point I am getting at is: What’s choice got to do with misogyny? Seriously. As far as I’m concerned the only porn I’m even willing to discuss is the stuff people have consented to/made a choice to do–anything else is rape/molestation footage and I’d prefer it be in the hands of the authorities. Misogyny and choice are NOT trade-offs. Misogyny is essentially a prejudice and can be be blatantly fricking obvious or as covert as a timid bigot. But it does not end or begin at choice.
So because I feel misogyny is more than just choice and that the two are not mutually exclusive it means I am saying misogynistic porn has to be determined from a *message* standpoint only. We have to be willing to ask why people are doing what they are doing, what dynamic it relies on and how it got there in the first place. It does NOT mean I am saying the actors have not exercised “choice” (fly fly away red-herring) But it *does mean* that I am, even indirectly, accusing a woman of engaging in a form of hate speech and, again indirectly, calling her choice a poor one. And shouldn’t I, all feminist-and-shiz, be so utterly blown-over that this woman made a *choice* that I cease discussion?
And my answer is no.
I am a feminist. I I want equality for women.
Do you hear that? *I*/memememe want (what I consider to be) *equality* for (persyns other than myself) women. We should break down those implications:
1. I have decided women are in a state of inequality.
2. I have decided what equality is and thus what a break in equality would look like.
3. There are women in stories and statistics, whom I have never spoken with, and whom I have *judged* as experiencing/having experienced oppression/wrongdoings.
4. I have decided for other women that they are living in a patriarchal society.
5. I have made comments and opined on the condition of reproductive rights, equal pay, child care, family, sex education, the sex industry, beauty standards, etc..and their effects on women as a collection of people whom I have not gotten full consent to do so.
6. I have called for change on reproductive rights, equal pay, child care, family, sex education, the sex industry, beauty standards, etc.. when I have yet to hear from all the women that would be affected, not knowing if they agree or if they would have picked the same thing.
I have taken my total life experiences and knowledge and projected MY view of a better world onto OTHER womyn. I will likely never speak to or know so much as 10% of the womyn on this planet and yet HERE I AM. (The audacity!)
I have assumed some form of choice for other women.
So PLEASE tell me feminists how YOU have managed to give a rats ass about OTHER women without PRESUMING some of THEIR CHOICE or CONDITION. PLEASE *someone tell me* how you proclaim FEMINISM, a cause wherein YOU have DECIDED PEOPLE OTHER THAN YOURself-and for whom you DO NOT KNOW-are OPPRESSED, may call other feminists JUDGMENTAL.
AND PLEASE, for the love of Goddess, tell me HOW IT DOES US ANY FRICKIN GOOD to DERAIL a conversation into the ME-GAME when all of a sudden it’s SOMETHING YOU DO that is getting called out.
We don’t/shouldn’t have to agree all the time—but we are ALL engaging in some form of JUDGING here, some form of presumption that has NOT engaged EVERY SINGLE WOMAN involved in the matter. To try and DEMONIZE each other if the convo turns YOUR direction is HYPOCRITICAL and a COMPLETE WASTE of our energy when we could otherwise be talking about WHY WE FEEL THAT WAY and how to, ohhh-I-dunno, HELP!
If you have at ANY point called yourself a FEMINIST or made a statement about/voted for a policy (etc.) that affects WOMEN OTHER THAN YOURSELF whom you DO NOT KNOW/HAVE NOT SPOKEN WITH then YOU TOO have partaken in an act of PRESUMING CHOICE for other women.