It’s not that women are helpless pawns, it’s that women are oppressed: the subjugated sex, the sex with all the rules and constraints and expectations for meek conformity. Women are raped (at least one in four is the accepted stat); women face violent abuse (50%), and even death (1300 per year) from the men they love at statistically horrifying rates (http://www.stopdv.org/index.php/statistics/). And when women leave their abusers? That’s where men commit 75% of DV murders. (http://www.domesticabuseshelter.org/infodomesticviolence.htm)
Where is “agency” in all this?
I can tell you where it is – it’s in the minds and the ideals of so-called Third Wave feminists. Take that “agency” out and test it, and it falls flat. It’s no protection, it’s no counterbalance to very real male behavior. The belief that women are things, varying from arm candy to cum dumpsters, is at the core of pornographized culture. And most of the culture is deeply pornographized. We are living in porn culture. If you don’t believe these last three sentences, take a look at Pornhub, and note that in 2017, the site had 81 million views – per DAY, and 800 searches per second. (https://www.pornhub.com/insights/2017-year-in-review) Don’t buy their propaganda, though. In most of the US “lesbian” is the most-searched category, of course by men, but Pornhub quietly attributes the searches to women, and uses the words “MeToo” and “empowered” to preach feminine agency.
“From the “Me too” movement to prominent females the likes of Hillary
Clinton and Nikki Haley on the world stage, women are feeling more
empowered and they have found their voice. This is a sign of things to come.”
Are there men who actually see women as level equals? If you put “separate but” in front of that equality, then sure. Because all of maleness is determined by not-femaleness. Don’t believe me? How often do you, if female, share clothing with your significant other, if male, IN PUBLIC? How often do you wear his shirts to the mall? His shoes? How often does he wear yours?
Male clothing is different from female clothing, and those who overlap, defy the difference without making a spectacle of it, are female. Our notion of sex, male or female, is based on difference. And our notion of sexuality is also based on that difference – for heterosexuals, men are different from women and that is part of what is supposed to create the sexual tension between the sexes. Problem: it’s a hierarchy. Heterosexuality is BASED on dominance and subordination.
Have some hets worked beyond this? Of course we (female partners) have. “But that’s also an issue to deal with in the larger culture.
Sitting in your own home, discussing decisions to be made, voices may be perfectly equal. Say you’ve decided on a paint color for your kitchen. Now go to the paint store together. Even though it’s for a kitchen, considered a female domain, and even though both men and women capably paint walls, chances are the worker at the paint store will focus on the man. Or go buy a car together. It matters not that you’ve done hours of comparison work, have memorized the 0-60 time, wheelbase, engine specs, and trunk capacity for ten comparable cars, and he’s checked out colors he likes, the sales staff will gravitate toward him. Out in the culture, you’re not allowed that equality you think you established at home. He will be treated with deference, as an expert or authority, while you will be adjunct, and ignored. He may not even realize it, because it feels like basic decent treatment to him. And he hasn’t spent a lot of thought, short of egregious things like shoving and swearing, on how you’re treated.
It comes out when discussing plans for your home and he says, “I’m going to …” Or “I did this …” when you know damn good and well that you participated, sometimes did the majority of the work, and will do the same in the future. He also says “My house” and never “Our house” when he’s talking projects. He’s been trained to do this all his life. He has agency; he sees himself happiest as a free individual, able to make decisions without encumbrances from anywhere. It turns out that agency is really a male ideal, and one that has some irksome effects on the females who care about them!
Is agency a female ideal? Should it be? In an article focusing on female agency (http://www.refinery29.com/2018/01/187589/female-agency-post-weinstein), the author writes of photos of a nude male torso, and of nudes passed as a part of work (she never lists the nature of this work, but it sounds odd to me), saying:
“I’ve seen young women obsess over equally innocuous behavior — and I’m worried about how many of them might spend their lives feeling powerless because of one tiny moment.”
But women aren’t feeling powerless because of a momentary glimpse of a body – the powerlessness comes from realizing, as the author has written earlier in the piece (without any hint of irony):
“While I am certainly aware that men wield power over women in this society, what I find more difficult to accept is that they wield power over me, specifically. I can’t stand that it’s impossible to make myself equal simply by behaving as though that were the case.”
If young women are obsessing, then it’s time to encourage confronting the issue and healing by working through it. We old/er or simply other women have done this, either decades past or we’re still doing it, but from a place where we function, no obsessions.
The powerlessness comes from recognizing the hierarchy, and the fact that women are the Low to men’s High! It’s a completely accurate analysis! We CAN’T wish ourselves into equal power. That’s the point. That’s why it’s Women’s Liberation and not Wishful Agency. Actual feminists want to take down the system, including its hierarchy, and create something different. Not Lean In, not some version of male-defined power with female faces, not women’s equality with men, not even “agency.”
In comparison to male agency, women’s communication is focused on community, connection. We’ve been trained to do this all our lives. People who study communication, especially by sex, find this difference to a striking degree. (See the classic, “You Don’t Understand: Women and Men in Communication.”)
If agency is a male ideal, women using it in dealing with men in a hierarchical setting have little chance of success. Does that make women into children? If it does, it’s patriarchy that created the situation, not me. And not my framing.
If calling out the fraudulent nature of female “agency” infantilizes women, it is the culture that renders women childlike. We need to change the culture. Granted, it’s easier to critique the various writings by women, often claiming feminism as their basis for understanding the issue, than it is to do the work of tearing down the culture. But it’s the culture that is our biggest issue. Its hierarchy. Its individualizing and isolating men, except in devaluing women: arm candy or cum dumpster. No, really, take a gander at Pornhub, or read Suzzan Blac’s blog at http://theviolenceofpornography.blogspot.co.uk/
A more useful analysis starts from recognizing women’s strength in our socialization. It’s not winning in competition or freedom from encumbrance that motivates most of us most deeply. It’s not the individualism of agency that grounds us best. It is in connection with others, and in creating community and then nourishing it, that we find ourselves – in both senses: we end up there, and we find fulfillment there. Genevieve Vaughan has written that humans find their worth in meeting the legitimate needs of others. A more useful analysis would then require men to become and be human. Or at least get out of the way.
So argue with me! If you’re a woman who sees men as almost as helpless before the gods of culture, share and explain your view.
I see male power. I see the opportunities to use it for good, even as men claim it’s not enough, it’s virtually useless! Bull. I see white privilege, another name for power. I see the opportunities to use it for good – and I see my kind dodging responsibility, not wanting to make waves or stand out or be labeled a troublemaker. But, oh, this culture needs trouble from the wave-makers! It needs troublemakers who dare to stand out. Not every single moment, and not without risk assessment – best to live to fight another day, usually. But fight.