The Journaling Group

There is a group I’d love to attend, on some levels, and so I went to the introductory session with the following thoughts in mind.  The journaling group is based on the ideas of its creator, combined with the wisdoms to be found in Dr. Estes’s popular book, Women Who Run With the Wolves.  My first comments are my hope of finding other women who want to help women become re-empowered locally, something I share with a dear friend who received the original email notice for the group.  Later I refer to the introductory flyer.

We old women have the time, energy, and relative freedom to make effective, lasting change that young women, as well as the middle-aged among us, often do not.  We may even have acquired wisdom – especially if we have been marginalized in some way AND have engaged in analyses of our oppressions via existing writings on the topics and in discussions with other women, or people who share those marginalizations.

I want to find the boat-rockers.  I want to find women who already have some depth of analysis and who want to strike out against what is wrong based on that deeper understanding of HOW things are wrong.  And then, together, I want to work on helping to empower other adult human females so that we can wreak havoc on wrongness, as an effective and caring coalition of women.  A sisterhood would be awesome, but that needs to be earned; coalition is good enough for now, I think.  You can be who you are, that’s fine.  I’m a radical feminist.  My political analysis is based on the hierarchies of the castes assigned to people under the existing system.  Those are hierarchies by sex, race, class analysis beyond the 1 vs 99% view, and more.  Radical means getting to the root of any issue, and one of my strongest motivations is the empowering of all human females so that we can create an effective, and level, counter to the inequities that rule our lives.

Maiden – Mother – Wisewoman (Crone) has issues beyond what the added ‘Prostitute’ brings in.  This is age-related, so why not just use Crone?  Ageism is inherent, though, if wisdom is solely seen as being gained with age.  Even age doesn’t guarantee it!  And the age-triad reinforces the errant concept of ‘linear progress,’ where young feminists, except for the especially brave and brilliant, have been coerced to believe that second-wave feminism was not in their best interests, and was actually anti-woman!  It was, it is in women’s best interests, as it is female centered.  That’s its flaw in the backlash:  it refuses to center men.

The focus on motherhood, both a main basis of female oppression and of privileging within the sex-caste hierarchy, is an issue of unnecessary female divide.  I say ‘oppression’ because motherhood is our bodily ‘resources, extracted’ by the other sex, and I say ‘privileging’ because any capitulation to patriarchy is rewarded so long as it benefits men.  Women who choose not to be mothers at all in this era of global climate catastrophe and human overpopulation should be commended, not marginalized.  It could be simply girl, woman, old woman — but why the emphasized division by age, anyway?  If it’s focus, name the focus.  It might be stated as:  Building Self (a major portion of girlhood is drawing or weaving together the characteristics chosen as valuable, creating an honorable and worthwhile Self), Building Family (the gifts of adulthood that women bring include community, connection, and care, which are vital to the creation of one’s own chosen and supportive family), and extending the community outward, or Building Tribe (often older women build across divides).

And why is ‘Prostitute’ an included archetype???  Prostitution is, by definition, female sexual slavery (wherein pornography is the literal depiction of that enslavement).  The number of women trafficked into prostitution, often as pre-teen girls, is astronomical.  In the US alone the number of girls and women trafficked into this country’s sex trade is roughly 15,000 a year.  Worldwide, sex traffickers ‘buy’ or steal almost 2 million children a year.  The body-buyers and -abusers are men.  It is the ultimate proof of patriarchy — men buy fuckability in human form; under patriarchy men own the right to use others’ (lessers’) bodies for their sexual indulgences.  Some countries, legally or otherwise, have sex tourism as a major – if not economically THE major – industry.  Thailand and Singapore are “vacation” or “business” destinations most often visited by men, solo or in groups.  When businessmen brag about trips to Singapore or Thailand, this is probably what they’re telling you, and getting away with because you don’t know and aren’t encouraged to consider in the current cultural climate of “agency” and acceptance.  Now you know.

Awakening the inner artist in every woman, also a time of self-building, makes sense.  The warrior in many of us does come out in full force as our immediate obligations to sustaining others’ lives decrease.  Women often cannot be frontline activists easily when others are completely dependent on them; women with children feel this deeply, and are released into fighting back overtly, once those children are grown.  It may be dangerous to say in this day and age but having children really can limit what women can do communally; maybe that is a lot of the point.  Women who settle into culture are also seen as sexual targets up until their early 30s; performance (of “beauty” and of “sexy”) for males is demanded.  The freedom of greater age can be a time of community-building, both small and local, and large and bridging customary divides — including race and class and love interests (that which in the negative is Lesbophobia).  The wild woman archetype CAN open women to building — fierce and fighting alliances, or coalitions of care, but it can also be co-opted, in this era of more-backlash-than-actual-feminism to mean highly-individualized and individualist goals:  being seen as sexy in later years, developing a personal style or look, taking on causes without much analysis.  Look at the tremendous boost to the anti-feminist “trans” cult, and the subsequent loss of women’s rights abetted by older women!  Or look at the acceptance of pornography and prostitution now seen as “liberated” among so many older women!

During the meeting it became clear that Dr. Estes’s and the group leader’s essentialism, that men and women have very different, roles, goals, and innate personalities, was going to silence my dissenting view.  No, I don’t believe that men are innate competitors perfectly fitted to war, football, and sexual aggression aimed at spineless, simpering women.  I’m sure to women who are afraid of conflict this might be soothing, another version of ‘it’s not our fault.’  But that is infantilizing, nowhere near a true picture of womanhood, and certainly not covering the range of what many women already are:  brave, centered, caring, fierce, loyal builders of connection and community.  Some men have shown they are capable of that, but all men are taught to be destroyers, and all women are schooled in valuing men and maleness over other females.  That last stuff is culture.  I challenge that, always, and in a group where the basis for understanding place, as a woman, is in opposition to this ‘true nature of men,’ I can’t fit.

As I wrote to my friend:  I’m just not interested in fawning praise for masculinity, or loyalty to gender.  Gender is fake — the social roles each culture enforces upon the two very real sexes are not uniform across cultures, and usually only serve the power structure.  I am not a woman who ever fantasized of rape, or who eroticized power differences, men over women.  Possibly I’m fairly rare, I don’t really know.  But it’s something I never had to confront in myself, or worse, try to unlearn. The whole thing of ‘Ooh, men are innately power-driven and isn’t that SOOO sexy …’ smacks to me of the kind of accepted female subjugation that gets masochism labeled ‘female,’ innately ours.  Just no.

I’m glad I attended the introduction.  It was comfortable walking in as simply another woman, one among others.  I was one of the youngest, too, something I’m not used to, but not by much; we were probably early 60s to late 70s.  Seated in the presence of aged women, with agile bodies and active minds, was also comforting.  I love my sex; I deeply appreciate women.  But the woman who wrote The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football wasn’t praising men, she was critiquing culture.  Me, too.

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So Many Snowflakes

Snowflakes mean ‘specialness.’ Far beyond what Mr. Rogers sang and spoke, people in the US are invested in self, in aggrandizing that self, and in staking space for that self, often in very public ways. A version of Snowflake pairs well with youth, but others as easily accompany age. It’s the “I always knew you were special” of Blade Runner: 2049. It’s the focus in parenting of the Sputnik generation, where students HAD to math best and science finest because Russia HAD to be beaten in the space race and beyond; it’s the birthright of the Gymboree generation. It’s US rugged individualism carried to a petty, obnoxious, all too self-important level, with its basis in group-think. And I did it, too.  Maybe I still do, I don’t know.  And, of course, it’s wrong.

Two manifestations these days are vegan/vegetarian arrogance, and the cult that allows young men to claim womanhood and, with social approval, punch older feminists who disagree.

This all came up because of a discussion on nutrition. Some of us are aged and experienced, honestly took wrong turns and want to talk about them, and actually care that our miseries don’t repeat unnecessarily. We’ve started offering up articles on nutrition that showcase, usually too simplistically, the results of our deeper and well-considered analyses. If Trump’s given us nothing else he’s provided an escape for us all in claims of “fake news” we can aim at whatever we dislike, in studies and other science. Goddess knows “journalism” has done its part, and science is sold and sealed by corporatocracy. If exposure to education has garnered no other benefit, it has allowed for a critical analysis of studies and philosophies, alike.  Feminism is as strong and as accurate as the philosophies of its adherents — and as damned as its backlash is welcomed, culturally.

Remember I led with ‘aged and experienced.’ It’s hard to gather data if you don’t have the time in. And nutrition isn’t, as much as we’d love as a culture to believe, a fast science, leading readily to a quick fix. Dietary changes may feel great, as one toxin is removed, but too often we just replace it with another. Or with deficiency. Most of the adamant vegans and vegetarians are young.  Some of the remainder are recent converts. Many of the long-timers have such medical issues logically attributable to vegetarianism that their claims of health ring hollow. And many of us who were vegan or vegetarian for a long while can claim negative health effects clearly linked to our veg eating. I do, and the children I grew within my skin while fully vegetarian also do.

There is nothing quite like looking your child in the eye and admitting that your vegetarian adamance likely caused, or at least contributed to, their neurological damage.

I was that lecturing vegetarian in quality vinyl softball cleats. I was going to save the world through sanctimonious sermons on why killing and eating animals was wrong. Morally, ethically, and nutritionally wrong. I had science and feminism on my side. But mostly I had the righteousness of the many like-minded behind me, the virtue of our being bloodless eaters among those feeding the horrors of industrial farming: dismemberment, disease, and death accrued to them alone. Much later a friend talked of taking younger folks into communities with little money, where the very best of their food was offered to visitors, a gift they really couldn’t afford, only to have it rejected.  But the youngers didn’t simply reject the gift, they lectured the givers. Across the vast chasms of race and class, the young white people stepped up and spoke down to those who would share the best of what they had, in kindness and in communal connection. I had done that, in my time.

I honestly don’t care what anyone eats. Most of my view is based on once caring deeply about what everyone ate, and then finding I was actually quite wrong. Evading killing others is impossible, except in our shielded imaginings.  We kill bacteria and viruses simply to continue our own lives. Yes, peppers and cucumbers are delicious, and picking their fruits doesn’t end the plants’ lives. What about carrots? Radishes? Kohlrabi? And who carefully takes their apple core and reintroduces it to Nature, not trash and not compost, but back to the ground to have a fighting chance for rebirth? Factory farming is atrocious. But the atrocities also mount in the growing of, say, wheat: biotic cleansing of the soil is just the beginning. Post-harvest, those huge wheat trucks have large numbers of dead grasshoppers in them. We used to sift them out and then crunch the grains, raw and unprocessed, meaning we gained little to no nutrition; the grasshoppers would probably have been better food. But more to the point of beings with faces, with known mothers and families and connections, vegetarian loyalties stated aloud, there is the harvest of death and dismemberment of ground dwellers.  Prairie dogs and ground squirrels and nesting birds are all butchered by the machinery, or poisoned, as once I was required to do, by hand.

I strongly recommend Lierre Keith’s amazing book, The Vegetarian Myth. She is gentle, caring, kind, and honest. Her greatest gift is in offering us reconnection to the cycle of life, to understanding that everything is part of a whole; we skew reality when we part things out. Salmon, bears, rivers, and forests all work together to continue life. Paul Stamets has shown how mycelium and trees interconnect for the benefit of all. The world we inhabit is full of intelligence; individuals are but a part of that. And yet we have inflated the importance of individuals so as to obscure the interconnections between beings. And it’s those interconnections that matter most. They are obscured when we ask, How many humans can live on this planet? And they’re obscured when we tell others to take on our perspectives, without considering there might be other and very useful ways of looking at things that we haven’t yet discovered. They’re obscured when we dismiss kindness and community in the service of self-aggrandizement, fall back on entitlement and the self-righteousness of privilege, primarily of being white and male!

Another problem that seems to tie in well here is that of not wanting to be average.  Of not wanting to be just one of many, and finding place and positive interaction there. Some of us enter most easily where we can be seen as leaders. Do we spend the same energy or time being members? This seems especially true among women, where we are groomed to distrust, and to compete with, other women, usually for male approval and attention. Men adhere to hierarchy and find their place, occasionally challenging a rung or two upward, but little more. Women, who understand equality deeply — community and connection seem to flow in our veins — seem to struggle with both hierarchy and being lost in the sea of many. Especially as level members, we lose the ability to keep other women at a distance. In large groups of women the hierarchies create space — in conflict, more-privileged women demand we ignore differences, to focus on commonalities. Unfortunately it’s usually privileged difference that causes conflict to begin with, say white women not realizing (or caring about) their evident racism or het women their Lesbophobia.

I see it as probable evidence of entitlement when groups of women face internal conflict. It’s best to work through it, as it never seems to go away otherwise.  And sometimes the entitled even make claims of “identity politics” getting in the way of sisterhood. That, not privilege, or entitlement, or hurtful arrogant ways of speaking or seeing. The phrase has become a stopper, a roadblock to further discussion.

Not ironically to me most of the claims against “identity politics” in my field of vision are being made in white female and Black male writings, two groups that embody “identity politics” like no others! Feminism and Black liberation are the original “identity politics.”  What’s missing here is an understanding of the difference between ‘Being identified as a member of a sex or race caste’ and ‘Self-identifying as something you’re clearly not.’  That’s a whole ‘nother post that feeds directly off this one.  But it ties up the beginning paragraph, here.  Snowflakes are self-important individualists with collectivity only in fighting the object of appropriation, in the case of the “trans” phenomenon, or in signalling the highest of virtues, among the adamant vegan/vegetarian lecturers.  Again, I don’t care what you eat.  I care how you treat others.  I care that we nurture one another to be real, humans, caring and connected.  Women are losing rights, and privacy, to men.  And while the planet storms and swelters, we quibble lifestyles as we oversimplify issues and hide our eyes at the destruction wreaked by our own choices.

Men aren’t women, women can’t escape oppression by claiming to be men, and vegan or vegetarian eating won’t save the planet. There are too many Snowflakes for this time of global warming, of climate catastrophe.  My hope is that we all melt, and join in making real, lasting, effective change.

City Meeting

Yes, Lesley, I remember you.

The meeting is beginning, the room is almost full, and someone slides in front of me and sits between my acquaintance, a retired professor from the college, and me.  I smell a touch of perfume, enough to make me lean away.  I see the large, bright fuchsia purse slide past my face, and the clutch of notebooks and a phone.  I see butt-length waved black hair that looks like a wig, brown skin, and when the clever sweater of the dress ensemble is shed, the biceps of testosterone fueling.

I’d been warned that my longtime acquaintance, Lesley, seen last at the Black Lives Matter march in mid-summer, was now appearing everywhere in drag –- heavy makeup, wigs, heels, and always –- that marker delineating the women from the boys, clear proof of XX status –- skirts.  I’m joking.  No, really I’m trying to cover rage.  Because the other thing I’d heard was there’s a beloved “transgender” considering getting into politics.  I never made the connection to the young, obviously gay man who was so great a volunteer, and so good with those who depended on him.

Why rage?  Because the two left-wing political men in that room, the professor who’d run for local government and the one currently running for a top city position, greeted Lesley with bright smiles I’d never seen them give to a woman candidate.  And they wouldn’t; this is different:  this is a comrade who gets them major brownie points, a “transgender”!  And a “transgender” who looks like a pretty, young Black woman.  Sort of.  Double bonus points!  And eye candy, to boot.  How can I explain this without being completely crude?  They were both, these white men, fairly giddy.

And they will never understand my side of it.  They are, after all, supporting a WOMAN!  But they’re not.  They’re supporting an appropriator, and an attention-seeker, too.  Female, woman, girl, she, her, these are my words.  These are the only words I have to name my sex, and my sex is the basis for my oppression, so they are the very language of my naming and explaining my oppression, OUR oppression, girls’ and women’s oppression.  Steal those words, and our oppression is obliterated, completely.  Hand our oppression to someone who has NOT lived as a girl, has NOT been molested and raped as a girl and as a young woman, who has not been chased down a dark country road by drunken teenage boys knowing their bodies are stronger and running away is the only defense … and it erases the hells we have endured.

This “woman,” with his fake hair tossed and fluffed and then grabbed to maintain its attachment, repeatedly, and with his knuckles cracked every several minutes throughout the meeting, and his cutesy little sweater off then on then off, always with a polite “Excuse me,” and his fussing in his purse for phone and notebooks and pen, purse up, purse down, is not a woman.  But he is definitely satisfied with remaining the center of attention.  In quieter moments he clears his throat –- a somber low tone not at all like his pitched speaking voice.

And I could abide the attention-seeking behavior, the noises, the movement , if this were someone not appropriating my sex, my oppression, and not staking the terrain of my eventual divide with the shallow-thinking political men who pride themselves in pushing this new-found oppression, women be damned, with his heels and mascara.  These are the markers of femininity, not womanhood.  I AM a woman, clearly so, as I sit there as my real self, short hair, button down shirt and jeans, flat shoes, and as always, makeup free.  These are the markers of this authentic woman.  But they don’t flatter liberal men, and they don’t titillate –- there is nothing in here that suggests sexual availability or feeds male fantasy, and yet ….

No, I mean this seriously!  What does a short skirt say?  Possibly access?  What effect do high heels have on how someone walks?  They cause a sway of the hips –- that is their actual purpose!  To be noticed, to distract, to re-focus the male mind.  Signalling sexual accessibility –- skin exposure, vulnerability and lack of any real ability to resist — and seeking male attention and approval is femininity.

For a decade I adored this young man, talked him up to others, reveled in his awards and accomplishments.  For a decade I never guessed we’d be on the opposite side of the “transgender” issue –- never guessed he’d seek to mutilate his perfectly functional gay-boy and gay-man body, and never guessed the liberal men I knew would applaud his conversion to privileged normality:  female-seeks-male instead of remaining gay.  (Or is ‘privileged normality’ redundant?)

So as I’m readying to leave he turns to me and says something about, “I wasn’t sure you remembered me.”  With the closest thing to a poker face that I can find, I tell him calmly that yes, I remember him.  And I leave.

And I’m away from the building, alone, before I begin to swear aloud:  JFC, I saw you no more than seven months ago!  And while at the podium to address the city government you gave your name.  Of course I remember you.  I simply want to find the way to say, I liked you better before you appropriated my sex, my oppression, and pondered butchering your healthy body.  I suspect your attention-seeking behaviors are clues you’re not really that happy, or perhaps you’re just a narcissist.  Either way you’ve drawn a line, drawn me on the other side, in support of the war against women that is “gender.”  I can’t wish you anything more than a return to sanity; you’ll always know that I believe your life matters.  White privilege means you don’t have to worry about mine, but that male privilege is something else, and it doesn’t go away when you don a skirt, mascara and heels. ….

Well, hell: the 2016 Election, Part 2

People still discussing the 2016 US election cycle five days later are deeply divided.  It isn’t simply division by sex, because so many (white, heterosexual) women voted for Trump. And it isn’t simply division by a belief that women matter, because I am still arguing with male colleagues on the left, whom I truly believe care about women and women’s issues (just how much is the debate point, because the male left and the male right sound too much alike).  The divide might best be framed as one between those who are female and who believe that all women’s lives matter, and those who can’t claim both.

That debate point:  how ready are men in the US to see women as equals in status and worth?  The logical conclusion from this election, for so very many women, is that men hate us even more than we suspected, and if we are multiply-oppressed (via race, class, being Lesbian, etc.) we are likely even more damned and despised.  I used to think “women’s equality” was a low bar, and now I’m looking at it from the underside.

I saw equality as a low bar of achievement because I’d understood it to mean “equality with men” or being “as good as men, LIKE men.”  Given the rapes and molestations and other sexualized and non-sexualized violence, and the love of hierarchy enacted the world over by men, equality didn’t appear much of a goal.  It seemed even a step or two downward.

But this “equality” is maybe better framed as men seeing women as equals, since men hold the power under patriarchy. And they simply do not. This “equality” is a plea: the low bar I once derided is not even within our reach; we must beg for access.  This is not what we felt a week ago, some relative autonomy giving way to shock over the horrifying possibilities of our futures.  Instead, our country voted for the candidate who bragged about being a sexual predator, and somehow both women and men found him an acceptable candidate.

Seriously, we are positioned under patriarchy to have to beg men for levelness.  Whereas we were set to at least have a woman as president, whatever her flaws, and to use populist pressure to shift her to the left, we found ourselves enduring brutal abuses of her, of other women, of girls, and of men of Color and of marginalized ethnicities and religions.  And it increased throughout the campaign.  Still, we thought, this country is not going to accept the misogyny and racism and hate outright — we’ve come too far, and have too much in place already, right?

One word:  pornography.  Pornography set the stage for women being seen as incompatible with leadership. Over the last decades our culture’s view of women has become one of utility (fuckable/ not fuckable) to men, rather than as individual beings in their own right or a collective and marginalized sex-caste.  We feel this occasionally (or often) as we pass groups of men or overhear their banter, but many of us have been able to keep it on the periphery of our lives.  Unless we’ve recently been raped or sexually harassed, of course.  And now pornography has brought us a “First Lady” that a number of American men have seen naked, enjoyed seeing naked.  We know because they have begun to brag about it on social media.  Her oiled-body nude photos have made the rounds recently on Facebook, and men who are generally respectful of women have stepped aside in their support and cracked brotherly jokes about those photos.  We have a new standard for American women, and it is one of objectification and subjugation — in short, hell.

And so we have women who understood that Hillary at least meant holding off the descent into hell, and who are now terrified for their lives.  Because eating and shelter are not optional, because marginalization has gone from dangerous to deadly.  And we have women who are traumatized by her opponent’s flagrant abuses played over and over in the media, and legitimized by the vote — women who have sobbed for days and who show all the classic PTSD signs, and if functional, only barely.  We haven’t even admitted to ourselves the likely increase in the rape rate, in intimate violence against women and girls — except the rare cases where it has hit the news and social media.

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Have we admitted to ourselves the likely increase in violence against women and girls as an outcome of the 2016 election?

Maybe the saddest thing of all is watching women on the left claim there was never any real difference between the candidates, or that it’s acceptable to hold Hillary to an absolutely impossible standard when no man has ever — EVER! — been held to the same.   And yes, I would say that women who are still Hillary-bashing do not fit my side of the divide, where women’s lives truly matter.  They refuse to see the damage that is possible.  Worse, they appear to refuse to care.

Some of this is the baggage of racism, of classism, but some of it, I think, is borne of privilege, of the need to feel better-than in the face of despair.  I want to help nurture discussion and deeper communication between women, especially, and leftists, overall.  But we will have to face the issues honestly as we work to lessen the damage to the most-marginalized.  Here I do mean poverty-class women, Lesbians, race- and ethnicity-marginalized women, and disabled women first.

We can set the agenda on the issues later.  Right now we need to heal ourselves, become aware of those things we need that we are most likely to lose, and then settle ourselves for the long conversations.  At least that’s what I see.

Well, hell: the 2016 Election, Part 1

I’ve successfully moved from next-day depression to a sort of numbness on Thursday, to anger with resolve starting the Friday after the travesty that is the 2016 election. I’m interested in hearing how other women are doing, especially those of us in the US, but also women in countries that will be impacted by this presidency. Which seems to be most other countries, given US behavior.

I know of many, many women and no small number of men, who cried all day Wednesday, some of whom were still tearful on Thursday. And Friday. We grieve, we work to heal all that is broken. And there is so much broken. From here:

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Trust. Young Black women look at me in daylight much the same way that women look at men on deserted streets at night, and this alone breaks my very soul to pieces. Gray-headed white het-married woman sans college degree, very much working class, the demographic of hate, among women.

The future. Parts of Canada are thirty degrees warmer now in November, setting records 20 degrees (Fahrenheit, thankfully, and not Celsius) above the previous records.

The gains of social justice. From Black and women’s voting rights to rights to bodily sovereignty also called abortion rights to Lesbian and gay marriage to Title-freaking-IX to something nearer to decency for desperate immigrants, rights we’ve fought so damned hard for are up in the air.

How can we grieve all of this at once?

How can we come together to heal our communities? How do we give to those communities, and more specifically to one another, and still nourish and nurture ourselves? If we can’t function then activism is over. So — how do we heal ourselves? What steps do we take? For ourselves, and then for the most-marginalized, and for all who are marginalized, among us?

Link

None of my arguments seemed to be registering, and what I was receiving in response sounded like part of some other conversation, not the one I was trying to have. In exasperation I said it felt like I was discussing nutrition and others were talking about dinner, recipes, some specific meal, rather than looking at the what and why of eating.

I had said that suicide is selfish. What I was hearing in response was personalized. Focus on individuals’ pain and how wrong I was to judge others, along with certainty that I must never have felt serious depression myself. And platitudes — that we can never know anyone else’s pain. And that mental disorders are shrouded in a mystique that leaves them beyond discussion.

What I see is culture, father culture (to correct Daniel Quinn’s error). The culture of the fathers is brutally hierarchical, competitive, devaluing and unforgiving, and judgmental in a way that I am not. But I don’t blame others for missing the difference — there is no other way to judge, according to culture! Steeping in the culture, commonly called childhood, leaves us all full of soul holes, traumas endured, physical and psychological violations experienced, and no way to frame it all except on the given hierarchy. Soul holes are filled by taking shots down the hierarchy; that’s all we are allowed.

We face traumas individually, yes, but one of the most healing things is to realize at a gut level that you are one among many others who faced the same kind of thing — it isn’t you, it’s them. And they were wrong.

I can remember the 70s (and before) and feminists’ budding awareness that a huge number of women were on anti-depressants. We began to understand that depression came from oppression, significantly if not entirely. We also learned to consider that depression just might be anger turned inward: when women could not lash back at their tormentors, or find other effective outlets, their rage would be expressed in self-hate and self-harm.

And then came the 80s, and feminist insights were usurped for more profitable endeavors. One example of this is the psychologization of disordered eating. Whereas women were beginning to recognize culture’s cruelty in forcing women to be a specific size (thin) and shape (buxom, long-legged), along came the psych industry to profit from women’s pain. That huge numbers of women entered the medicalized and psychologized disordered eating professions made little difference; the framing was patriarchal. Culturally women’s coerced appearance obsession was backed by the porn industry, something liberal feminism refused to challenge.

There is a too thin and a too fat within disordered eating standards. All women are expected to be able to conform to a thin ideal. This is one area where diversity is expressly forbidden. Any woman who does not conform is seen as having a defect in her eating — by definition. And the industry controls the definitions involving weight, while the populace believes them. Women do not strive to be whole and happy within their natural bodies, no; women strive to appear correct. (There is nothing healthy in being controlled by an external aesthetic standard whether its medicalized aesthetics or pornography’s.)

In fact it is the attempt to adhere to unnatural standards that creates the disorders to begin with! For all, anorexics and bulimics alike, the disorder starts with self-semi-starvation. Anorexics continue it; bulimics hold to a cycle that is inevitably starve-binge-purge — the starving comes first, and purge is merely another form of it, a form of underfeeding.

So what does make people healthy, including psychologically healthy?

We are taught to look toward acquisition, power and prestige, and control over our and others’ lives, to find our fulfillment as human beings. Things and admiration are the stated goals. Yet these do not work for us.

In essence, meeting others’ legitimate needs is what gives our lives fulfillment. It is the human connection that is fostered by the gift economy, by meeting needs, that fills soul holes. (See Genevieve Vaughan’s book gifted on-line called For-Giving, linked below; see also the link to the talk by Charles Eisenstein, below.) But without a hierarchal culture, our capitalist patriarchy, there would be no soul holes. We have plenty.

My children’s generation, those who attended Gymboree and who were told incessantly that they were special, often have an overt entitlement. Whatever they do is supposed to be enough to rate praise and positive attention. They may be worse than other ages, but tell anyone, warmly, that they are among the common people, or that they are average, and watch the response! To some extent we are all programmed to see ourselves as exceptional. Older generations have the cult of the rugged individualist to live up to. But of course not everyone can be exceptional, above average, positively uncommon. And within this programming there is much manipulation (see the documentary film, The Century of the Self, linked below).

http://www.gift-economy.com/womenand/women_gift_part_one.pdf

http://charleseisenstein.net/sacred-economics-money-the-gift-and-society-in-the-age-of-transition/

http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-century-of-the-self/

We really aren’t isolated selves, or rugged individuals, or even beings who are happiest when in conflict and competition with our peers. We are happiest in connected interaction with others. We are not islands, and no one is likely to be the only one ever to have gone through something — there was always someone else before who endured it — and usually thousands of such someones! If we aren’t exceptional, if we are part of a caste of humans who have been made to endure atrocities or at least significant pain, then we can pull together to resist. This should be good news!

Even as a child of the 70s, I’m aware that oppression isn’t necessarily the sole or inevitable cause of serious depression. I think it’s significant, but people are complex, and one size rarely fits most all. There are physiological origins, too. And selfish isn’t always wrong, to use a term of judgment. Sometimes being ‘self’-ish is necessary, especially in a capitalist patriarchy. Women often have no one else who will put them first. And sometimes being selfish is simply the last option. All I’m saying is that as a beginning point, it’s not conducive to filling soul holes or to making people want to continue to exist.

All people have some privilege available to them in their lives, and that privilege could be used — in the only useful way for privilege to be used — to aid those without it. For every horribly pained but privileged white man, there are women and children whose lives are atrociously oppressed, and who could benefit from his sharing what he’s been given, unearned. For every horribly pained but privileged white woman, there are other women, marginalized women, and girlchildren whose lives are infinitely more oppressed.

Now do privileged people have an obligation to use it to benefit those without? In the knee-jerk individualist stance, no, of course not. But is that the best way of looking at it? Same answer.

When we live as isolated beings in competition with one another, we lose. Generally we know this. So then why do we defend it as inevitable? The simple answer is that we have been groomed to see things in terms of rights. Our rights end where another’s begins. In this framing, we are inherently separate and in conflict with one another, practicing survival of the fittest. In reality though, cooperation is more the norm of Nature than is competition. And separation doesn’t make us happier. So what we know is in conflict with what we defend.

Because of this, I think some of the anger at my attempts to de-mythologize suicide (and to some extent psychology) aren’t necessarily aimed at me but are frustration from inherent contradictions.

When we live as beings within a connected, sane, and life-serving community, then we win. Those of us who have looked at studies on tribal people pre-civilization or separate from civilization have seen this valid form of ‘winning.’ More suspect it. In a community where lives are valued, intertwined and fulfilled, wouldn’t you expect to see some responsibility to others beyond individual rights?

Two incredible sources that have pulled me into this kind of reframing beyond Gen Vaughan’s words of community and connection are Barbara Alice Mann’s talk on WINGS, and David Abram’s books, The Spell of the Sensuous and Becoming Animal. They’re worth some perusal, I think.

http://wings.org/ftp/WINGS%20shows%202009%20series/hi-bitrate%20wings34-09Mann2009-28_41-192kbps.mp3

http://www.humansandnature.org/david-abram-people-72.php

I have been called judgmental for my views. I would answer this criticism by saying thank you. Our human world seems to currently lack critical thinking, and judgment is a part of that. I would rather think critically than perpetuate the bland non-judgmentalness that has so many thinking they’re each one exceptional and better than the rest.

I have been called a traitor to the ideals of community. Again, we get nowhere with all-accepting kindness — it simply reinforces the status quo, maintaining the hierarchy and its brutalities.

And I have been called unkind, even heartless. I do care — about individuals and their very personal stories, about a culture that leaves gaping soul holes. AND I am adamant about not excusing the privileged as they minimize their very real abilities to alleviate at least some of the oppression of others. There is responsibility to be found in being given something you didn’t earn, and truly don’t deserve over and above those without who have done nothing but be chosen for oppression. There is a duty.

Robin Williams was a white man with an excess of privilege and of power; he had resources beyond most people’s imaginings. I have been said to be equating money with happiness, which is absurd. I am talking about privilege, which often includes wealth; clearly privilege does not buy happiness, either. But sharing it actually might — it is through meeting the legitimate needs of others that humans find real fulfillment. It is through community and the connections created within it that humans thrive.

Suicide is selfish. To squander luxuries, and the chance to equalize them into the provision of basic necessities, is entitled. To wallow internally in pains known when the breadth and depth of others’ pains, external, are not known, is entitled. To not try, when trying could mean so very much, is entitled. To be embedded in the role of Victim, to individualize depression as Victim, to never even begin to examine one’s privilege as well or to take responsibility for it — to be the perpetual Victim — is a sign of our times, our culture, our adamant isolation. And a block to trying for change.

But that is all I ask — to try. To not squander what others don’t receive. To hear above one’s own pain to understand those of others. Again, selfish isn’t always wrong. But dishonest selfishness probably is. I would prefer that we be honest about what we do know, including that there is a mystique shielding mental illness so that its inhabitants are above reproach. Recently someone told me about a rapist, but partially excused him because he didn’t take his medication!

Another thing we don’t allow ourselves to readily know in this culture is that sometimes damage is too much to survive whole. Those who deal with childhood sexual assault do know this, and often try to tell it: girls who were sexually abused long and early may never, ever possess a healthy normal sexuality. They may always see themselves as Objects meant to please the masters, and may be proactive (probably grasping at the only sense of control available to them), seemingly seductive, making the first moves in an inevitable ritual.

There are other ways to be damaged beyond healing, and it may be kindness to not resist the end of such suffering. I don’t actually want the ominous responsibility of deciding this. I am willing to take on the burden of calling out the bullshit when privileged people are given passes, for whatever reasons. What I want is discussion beyond the platitudes, the accusations, and the personalizing of what needs to be a genuine discussion on how we view humankind in community and as individuals. I care deeply about individuals who have been hurt in this discussion; if it’s too much then ignore it, but if possible let’s walk through it. I want to change the framing, not you.

I’m not an outsider in this discussion. My childhood was hell; I was emotionally abandoned at 18 moths of age — after molestation, “damaged goods” was the explanation — then poisoned and starved, and left out to die (porch, door locked behind me, trike, concrete steps, broken ribs and a nose that bled for 48 hours as recorded in my baby book). There was more, but that’s enough. I have chop mark scars on my arms from when I practiced with a knife, hoping that bleeding would release some of the agony and angst, or at least teach me to do better, more, next time. I have hours lost on bridges when homeless and young; I took risks that should have been seen as practice as well. I don’t know why I survived, why I found other frames, why I moved onto more solid ground. I do know the words that came to me, unbidden, were: “and suicide is silence, the ultimate family loyalty.”

I don’t face depression to any great degree these days, but when I do I take it as a sign my body (or psyche) is trying to heal. I am aware that there is much out there that I don’t have to endure (and some I do). I have cut all ties to my family of origin. And I have decades of activism past, and ongoing, with moments of sheer joy in the sharing of the work. Those do help sustain me. So does being old — knowing I AM going to die and it won’t be my choice when, most likely, since I am resisting oppression and wanting to eke out all the living I can to do so.

I’ve listed and refuted the accusations against me. If you can’t find new ones, don’t respond. Better yet, if you can find framings that don’t absolve the privileged of responsibility, let’s talk.

Link

Recently I was challenged in private correspondence on my view that motherhood is privileged within patriarchy. My friend insisted that feminism’s framing needs to be women vs. men; male supremacy is the real issue, and what happens between women is minor in comparison. This essay is an attempt to answer the challenge.



First some fundamentals:

Feminism is about, for, and by women and girls. That needs to be understood from the start. While male allies are welcome to consider and express alternate framings and explanations, feminist theory has to be constructed by females. Because only women and girls bear the burden of the oppression. Because the effects all accrue to females, only. This is not debatable; it is basic oppression theory.

A corollary: feminists are female. Period. Radical feminism is inherently trans-critical; men claiming to be women are appropriators. (Liberal feminists are collaborators, which I will explain later.)



Male allies may be called pro-feminists IF feminists find them to be true allies, but this designation is to be decided by women, feminists. Claiming to be an ally is all about intent, not identity. Being an ally is all about consistent behavior and action, not about a man’s right to claim the identity. Feminism may indirectly free or even empower men, but that is not and will never be its point. If the WATM (What About The Men?) whine ever comes up, that man is decidedly not an ally.



Radical feminism is also inherently pornstitution-critical. If a man jokes about pornography or prostitution as an OK, manly endeavor, he is not an ally.

Another corollary: women are born female; ‘woman’ is a word we NEED to explain female + human + adult. If we concede this term, Simone de Beauvoir notwithstanding (she could not have meant that adult human females do not exist), we infantilize all female human beings!

Privilege is always a comparison in treatment between two or more groups. Privilege is a hierarchy — it is reflective of the hierarchy of the power structure. Privilege is not negotiable; it exists, and it is present all the time.

There is one caveat to privilege, however: marginalized groups CAN be played against each other to further reinforce the dominants’ power. Anyone who prances into the realm of whether women’s oppression, male supremacy, is worse than people of Color’s oppression, white supremacy, is dancing on a foundation of the absurd. Men of Color often claim that racism is The Worst. White feminists often claim that sexism is The Worst. Both are right and both are wrong. Foremost, these claims force women of Color to choose artificially between sides while the sides further marginalize women of Color. But also it’s important to realize that placement on the hierarchy is entirely at the whim and option of those with the most power, anyway. Positioning is flexible, and kept that way in order to garner numbers in stifling uprisings by a marginalized group. Black men can be and have been useful in alignment with the elite white male power structure: think pornography, think prostitution, and the fact of Black male involvement and ties with white dominants in these arenas. White women can be and have been useful in alignment with the elite white male power structure: think of how convenient the myth of the Black welfare queen to the majority of public aid recipients who are white women. Think of how many times white women have placed their own emancipation ahead of Black women’s and Black men’s — from the early days of the anti-slavery and woman suffrage movements right up to mainstream feminism’s unwillingness to confront the prison industrial complex that incarcerates disproportionate numbers of Black men. Or think of how the human rights atrocities against Gaza are ignored in favor of the not-Arab Zionists, even among feminists.

All hierarchies matter. Foremost is the male over female power differential, the thing that women’s liberation seeks to obliterate. But in order to do so, all women must matter. In the current scheme, put forward by my pro-feminist friend, marginalized women are expected to contain their issues and discomforts until some later, post-revolution time, under the banner of sisterhood. But “white women first!” is not a radical rallying cry, nor is any version of ‘privileged women first.’ We have to dismantle the oppressions enacted by women on other women in order to have a valid feminism. We have to examine our presumptions, and our comforts with that which other women don’t have, in order to build a valid feminism. We aren’t there. And men pushing for the continued marginalization of some women are not feminists’ allies.

So let’s jump into the main theme, whether or not motherhood is privileged.

All too often, when motherhood is discussed, it is in terms of how mothers are abused within patriarchy. They are. Mothers are in many ways captives of the system. They are intimidated by threats and acts of violence into support of and complicities with the power structure. They are manipulated and controlled, wills bent and bodies bruised, because of caring for their (and more-powerful men’s) offspring. All this is terribly true and not the point. Motherhood is still privileged.

An outrage! How dare I?

I dare because privilege is about treatment relative to another group. While folks rail about how horribly mothers have it, they are not talking about disprivilege. There is no reference group, except maybe men, the aggressors. The fact of women’s disprivilege in relation to men is not being disputed, though. We know women are oppressed as women, including within their expected roles within the patriarchal scheme. Female oppression does not disprove the privileging of mothers!

Mothers are privileged relative to non-mothers, relative to childless or child-free women. Mothers are rewarded for their complicity in this patriarchal demand, even as they are abused by proximity to their oppressors.

This is an important point: proximity to oppressors always holds some risk. It was easier for men in a household to rape women who were enslaved in the house than those who were less available to male householders, say field enslaved women. The exception to that was if a male householder also claimed rights to access enslaved women in their private quarters. At any rate, proximity does mean an increase in typical and customary violence for the oppressed. A woman who works alone in close proximity with her male employer is at greater risk than would be the average woman among many in his employ. A woman alone on the street at night is in greater danger from male aggressors than is a woman behind locked doors and alone in her own home. A woman who is partnered with a man, or with teen-or-older male children or grandchildren, is in far greater danger of physical and sexual violation than is a woman who lives alone or with other women. This is female oppression by males. Of course it exists.

Somehow this idea of the reference group gets downplayed; folks want to dwell on how mothers are oppressed within patriarchy, and not with how they are privileged relative to non-mothers. Part of this is simply our culture’s disregard for non-mothers! They don’t matter!

Outrageous, daring me! I am going to talk about the dis-privileging of non-mothers. First, let’s consider the privileging:



http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/motherhood.html

There are telling quotes all over, here. One common theme is that motherhood is female-appropriately altruistic:

“The natural state of motherhood is unselfishness. When you become a mother, you are no longer the center of your own universe. You relinquish that position to your children.” — Jessica Lange

Men share knowledge (they don’t possess). Honore de Balzac: “It is only in the act of nursing that a woman realizes her motherhood in visible and tangible fashion; it is a joy of every moment.”

While women hope: that motherhood is “joyful,” enjoyable, “beautiful and significantly life-altering,” “humanizing,” a “glory” or “glorious blessing,” plus “bliss, love and fulfillment,” and of course linked to that other female fulfillment, marriage to a man. (It is heterosexist, it is heteronormative, at its core.)



A few women dissent: Barbara Walters suggests getting a puppy instead, while Rachel Cusk waffles: a woman is “Part martyr, part pioneer” with some women deriving “feelings of heroism, while others experience a sense of exile from the world they knew.” And Emma Goldman is quoted as having said, “Is there indeed anything more terrible, more criminal, than our glorified sacred function of motherhood?” Barbara Ehrenreich weighs in: “Take motherhood: nobody ever thought of putting it on a moral pedestal until some brash feminists pointed out, about a century ago, that the pay is lousy and the career ladder nonexistent.”

 But the problems with the dissent are many. Some waffle, while painfully few question the inherent complicities — that capitalism and its employment hierarchy is a given (the career ladder comment), that service to the patriarchy is still service to all of humankind, and is sacred. Loyalty to the power structure is not radical feminism; it is consistent with liberal feminism.

 But how is motherhood complicit?

First, the aggrandizement of motherhood is really about the favoring of sons — their creation, their nurture, their ultimate elevation into the power structure as high as they can go based on other factors, like race, class, and their own level of conformity. It is the duty of mothers to raise acculturated sons. Rape and male violence (down the hierarchy) are culturally-accepted norms. Mothers are to defend their sons against charges of rape and other forms of violence against ‘lessers,’ usually women but also marginalized men. And mothers do!

When I suggest that women’s loyalties must be to females, foremost, and against their misogynist sons, I get resistance. When I suggest that if a son rapes, is known to have raped, loyalty has to be to his victim, the female being, and he needs disowned, I hear, “How can you say this — he was born from my body, he is my child!?!” I can say it because it is high time our loyalties are to female humans. And I can say it because women defending the outrages done by patriarchy, even in the forms of their own sons, is a significant part of the problem. Patriarchy is maintained by unquestioned allegiances by the many, including the terribly-oppressed. All systems of subjugation can be reinforced this way (and usually are).

Second motherhood is, itself, loyalty to the norms of heterosexuality. I was at the time actually a part of the Great Lesbian Con into Motherhood. Lesbians everywhere were having children, and I wanted in! I read everywhere of women’s biological clocks and discovered I, too, had one! Is there an internal urge to procreate? There may well be, although I’m not convinced there is. Still, any valid urge or instinct is easily manipulable by incessant cultural pressure. Even more so if it’s subtle and proffered by members of your own minority group. The fact is that Lesbian Motherhood was an act of assimilation, complicity by its very nature. And I was a part of it. (Damn me!)

Third, motherhood brings rewards and attention at the expense of childless or child-free women. Women who eschew childbearing are “selfish,” and more. See this for many more:




http://bigthink.com/against-the-new-taboo/23-responses-to-23-awful-statements-made-to-childfree-people

Fourth, if we honestly examine the cultural talk and behavior around it, motherhood brings clear rewards and positive attention, especially at the beginning. Two women I’ve been close to in my lifetime have sought out becoming mothers repeatedly, in great part for the attention and praise it garnered. In a culture that ensures we have soul-holes, spaces in our psyches that leave us pained and vulnerable, self-doubting and searching for relief, two things emerge as solutions. One is finding others who compare unfavorably, and the other is finding ways that the power structure will reward us.

Women use weight in this way. Women will befriend fatter women so that they, themselves, appear thinner and therefore more attractive by fat-phobic cultural standards. And women will attempt to lose weight to gain cultural kudos, acceptance, and ‘desirability’ in the mating scheme. Mating schemes are taken as givens, with heterosexuality (fuckability in the eyes of men) as priority. And sisterhood is trounced in favor of personal gain, as women compete for the elusive fuckability-while-human (not merely being used but also at least marginally valued for her beingness).

An aside: in this Scheme of Het, can a conventionally-attractive woman ever be sure she is seen as a whole being, and not just valued as a Desirable Object? It seems better to not be conventionally-attractive! And yet can a conventionally-non-attractive woman ever be sure she is not being mentally replaced by a Better Object in his mind, that she’s the best he can get in reality but not in fantasy? Why, again, are women ever heterosexual? Add into this the extreme dangers faced routinely by women at the hands of men!

And the answer, of course, is at least in part because of the reward system. The privilege. And the comparison groups are lesbians, and asexuals who are willing to claim that. If motherhood is so maligned, why do women continue to reproduce? Again, because of the reward system, the privilege, in comparison to non-mothers, to childless and child-free women.

This is rough, a beginning. More with commentary. Thank you.