Is Gender Really A Hierarchy?

I’ve stumbled across the same line several times in radical feminist spaces: Gender is a hierarchy.

Sex is a hierarchy: male above female, man above woman, boy above girl. But gender, which even WHO, the World Health Organization, defines as masculinity or femininity, is a patriarchal construct much more complex than a simple hierarchy — gender is a system by which patriarchy rewards conformity. Framing gender as a hierarchy too easily leads to men being categorized as more oppressed than women. That’s my thesis here, so please pay attention to this line: Framing gender as a hierarchy too easily leads to men being categorized as more oppressed than women.

Radical feminism takes the stance — inherently — that gender is fake, a construct of patriarchy by and for the benefit of men; gender is invalid. For this reason alone it would seem that framing gender as a hierarchy is a waste of time. But even more, the concept of gender is so complex, and flexible in meanings, that it becomes more than a waste of time — gender reinforces anti-feminism. I’m picky on language. If you know me, you know that. But it’s for one reason alone — political expediency. If we don’t hone our definitions, they get used against us and weaken our movement. We have too few with too much to accomplish. Save energy: Get the definitions of the words we need to work for us, not against us.

Sex and ‘gender’ do overlap. Males are required to be masculine and females feminine: masculine men and feminine women conform to patriarchy’s “gender.” They are BOTH rewarded, even as the hierarchy of sex places men above women. This is an integral part of my thesis — Patriarchy is invested in seeing masculinity as an integral part of being male and femininity of being female, because if these things appear innate and sex-linked then patriarchy’s hand in the definitions remains invisible; it’s just the way it is. I accept here that patriarchy has the power to define words, and unless we have a great deal of energy to spare (we don’t), it’s probably best to use their definitions so long as they don’t damage our movement. In this case they don’t. Masculinity is expected of men, and femininity of women. Gender equals mandated sex roles.

And so what of ‘feminine men’ and ‘masculine women’? They. Don’t. Exist. Neither does “cis,” which is supposed to mean the sex that an individual feels they are, on the inside, conforms to what the culture around them believes them to be. Generally sex gets conflated with gender, so that it’s a matter of one’s “gender identity” being consistent or not, within that artificial “cis.” “Femininity identity” would be a stretch were it that clearly spelled out, and I suspect this is why the sex/gender identity obfuscation is so common — it hides the phoniness of “cis.”

Where individuals don’t conform to the assigned sex roles (a.k.a. ‘gender’), for example M2Ts (male-to-‘transgender’ persons), they may appear to be more oppressed by ‘femininity’ than are those for whom ‘femininity’ is REQUIRED, women. To transgenderists, the hierarchy, based on gender, looks something like this:

The Transgenderist Hierarchy:
MASCULINE men (CIS-gendered)
FEMININE women (CIS-gendered)
MASCULINE women (not-CIS)
FEMININE men (not-CIS)

As soon as you allow for “masculine women,” you give credibility to “gender.” Even more, you’re giving credibility to “feminine men” being MORE oppressed than women.

Nowhere else — except in the appropriation of First Nations identity — have people accepted that a person can “feel” their way into being something they clearly aren’t. Why this generosity only comes up with respect to sex — and to a very marginalized, much-genocided race — is telling. Women (of all races) and People Shoved Onto Reservations are not seen as valid beings, their oppressions not believed to be legitimate or important.

Some feminists have been so generous as to allow ‘woman’ to become a “gender” word, shared with M2Ts; they say “transwomen” for t-cult men. I think it’s due to a misinterpretation of Simone de Beauvoir’s famous “One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman.” At any rate, these generous feminists are giving away our ability to name ourselves. We need a word that means adult human female — SEX, not gender — and ‘woman’ is that word.

Remember that gender is a patriarchal construct created for the benefit and maintenance of male power. So to be comfortable with one’s gender, to be this “cis,” means that a person is either a doormat, if female, or a brick wall, if male. What’s really missing with the emphasis on the imaginary “cis” is that there is no comfort for anyone in gender. There is comfort for men in being the superior sex. To translate: this means that there is no hierarchy of gender, it doesn’t work for gender — gender is imaginary, and even within this imaginary framing it is far too complex to be a simple hierarchy; there is a sex hierarchy, and men are on top. The sex hierarchy looks exactly like this:

MEN and BOYS
WOMEN and GIRLS

Onto the complexity. Within the reality claimed by patriarchy, which owns the arena in which gender plays out, Male = ‘masculine,’ or that male becomes an outcast; Female = ‘feminine,’ likewise. There are four categories still, but I’ve already pointed out that masculine women and feminine men don’t exist, can’t exist, within patriarchy’s definitions. Men are masculine or they’re just not real men; ditto for women and femininity. Nor is there ‘cis’; the nonconformists would simply outcasts, for need of a term. At first I thought the breakdown of the four categories would be more like this:

masculine-enough MEN
unmasculine MEN claiming to be feminine
— claiming female oppression and the right to infiltrate woman-only space
unmasculine MEN
feminine-enough WOMEN
unfeminine WOMEN

But this doesn’t work either! Those “unmasculine” men I listed? They are hyper-masculine in everything but the fetish wear. They grope women, they demand entry into women-only spaces, they accost, they act ever bit of the male entitlement they’ve always known. To quote a brilliant friend, “They play dress-up but they never lose their male power.” And even those symbols of supposed hyper-femininity, the fetishwear (and the breast implants and so forth) are not designed by women for women. They’re designed by men to create hyper-femininity, where femininity is the evidence of oppression. The symbolism of oppression.

Maybe the hierarchy could be more like this:

masculine-enough MEN
masculine MEN claiming to be feminine, fetishizing femininity
— AND claiming female oppression and the right to infiltrate woman-only space
less-masculine MEN (however marginally less so, they’re still potential sex-traitors)
feminine-enough WOMEN
unfeminine WOMEN

There are men who gain incredible amounts of feminist sympathy for being outcasts, who claim to cross gender and to own the word “woman”! These men adore femininity, and why not? It is symbolic of female oppression, which upholds male power and privilege. They are adamant, oppression-furthering conformists: Nothing reinforces patriarchy’s ‘femininity’ like equating breast implants, makeup, stiletto heels and skirts with ‘woman’!

Yet another problem with great magnitude in feminist circles, especially, is that we, as a sex-caste, never quite get past our coerced over-appreciation of men. Men in suits? Men in skirts? Doesn’t seem to matter. Perhaps sometimes we’re flattered into thinking men really do want to be like us, and will appreciate our teaching them to be women. What we really find, if we’re honest with ourselves and one another, is that these men believe they are the better version of us. (I often step back when sisters insist that we should feel for the t-cultists, because, given a very short time, they inevitably find that these are men, with full-scale privilege overwritten in their brains, and they will out themselves as male-supremacists, even in skirts; they believe fully that they are superior to women.) At any rate, men, however ‘trans’gender they may claim to be, face unabashed adulation within feminist and even lesbian communities, all too often.

Sometimes this unabashed adulation happens within institutions. I’ve been sheltered enough so that when my sisters argued that t-culters, men in skirts, were getting backing within university settings, I was thinking Feminism, rather than institutionally-backed privilege. If t-culters, men in skirts, are sanctioned out in the mainstream masculinist world for failure to conform, they are revered within the elite institutions that make up our culture. Those with the institutions of the culture behind them are not oppressed — they’re actually privileged.

So then the hierarchy might go something like this:

MEN (including those in skirts)
MEN who are potential sex-traitors
Feminine-enough WOMEN
Unfeminine WOMEN

One problem for me is where to put F2Ts, women who claim masculinity (and often act with entitlement, however borrowed it might be). Too often they have ALSO claimed the right to infiltrate woman-only space! And another problem is that with a hierarchy as complicated as this, the places are not fixed, definite or set. Gay men (potential sex traitors) and heterosexual women of the same races and classes can be used one group against the other when patriarchy needs to quell a potential rebellion. Feminine women, as conformists to the sex-role mandate (to ‘gender’) are rewarded by patriarchy! And yet they’re still women, and oppressed as women. But this is another case where places on this hierarchy can change at the whim or discretion of the powerful. There are times when, at least briefly, the middle two locations on the list can flip. Women can be used to quell the uprisings of lesser men, or those lesser men can be used to stifle unity among women (think any of the myriad scenarios where Black women were left out as white women and Black men fought over first rights). Feminine women are certainly used against non-feminine women. And there are the hordes of genderqueers and bois and gays (but the women here are never lesbians, never comfortable with existence among women), who tag along in this po-mo parade of proclaimed gender traitors, too many to rank into a credible hierarchy.

There are men who don’t conform rigidly to masculinity. These men, like ALL men it should be pointed out, still have tremendous MALE privilege and the accompanying sense of entitlement — they are not even close to any central location in between the dichotomous hierarchy of SEX. They can potentially be sex traitors, outcasts of ‘gender’ conformity, and still be allegiant to the hierarchy of sex. While they aren’t necessarily seen as “real” men, more as pawns or tokens, they may be called up to reinforce the hierarchy, when the elite want them to. Think leftist men who talk about feelings, but watch porn. (Or, simply, think leftist men.)

The punishments for sex-role non-conformity are reserved for unfeminine women, primarily, and men who are potential sex-traitors. Think lesbians and gay men, as the most obvious targets. These punishments are delivered by men, overwhelmingly — and for unfeminine women, also by women, handmaids of the patriarchy.

Unfortunately it is easier to pounce and pound upon the more-marginalized, and in the sex-role arena, death threats by transgenderists are legion (see GenderTrender). But these threats aren’t made against those with power — patriarchs. They are instead made against feminists. Women. The oppressed sex-caste. This only serves to undermine the credibility of the transgenderists. They do not want real change, they want easy targets, the more-marginalized, women.

Feminists still protest in earnest that the abuses of the trans are common and cruel. Are men in skirts, so thoroughly protected in the UK now, really seen as lesser when compared to men who opt to not conform to the privilege inherent in masculinity? Foremost, I’d say that the reason the laws protect men in skirts, t-cult members, is not that the culture has generous feelings toward these men (M2Ts), but rather that the whole t-cult line serves to shove women back, down the hierarchy, quite effectively. Elite men are protecting themselves against the real threat, the uprising of women should we ever see ourselves as a class in opposition to men/patriarchy. Gender is certainly not a neat, tidy hierarchy. It’s too complex to be so, and yet there is a solid case to be made that men in skirts who claim t-cult membership are elevated above men who simply don’t conform to the demands of masculinity — even as they are sometimes punished by sex-role enforcers out in the culture.

So why do our sisters, feminist or no, sell us out, seek appeasement and common ground with these appropriators? As in giving away the word, woman? As with using definitions of gender that cloud the fact it really is, simply, sex-roles divided into masculine/feminine? As with the focus on the occasional cultural hostility, and not the institutional adulation and reward? I can only see it as an intent toward kindness, a sort of a Good Girl conditioned reflex — so often I hear ‘inclusion’ and ‘reconciliation.’ As if these had never been tried!

I don’t see it as being so kind-hearted from men, and especially from leftist men. Think of the attacks on DGR for its radical feminist, trans-critical stance. It really looks like an opportunity to get one-up on women, and too many men seem to jump at the chance. I would dearly love to see the same level of indignation, of outrage, of adamance, when women and girls are attacked as I have seen in the past few days from men defending men (in skirts) against women.

If gender is as artificial as are class and race — and they are not innate, they are layered onto our identities — I do NOT wish to abolish class or race. While these may be viewed by much of the left as being as impermanent as gender, they still hold some of the discernability of sex. Sex is male or female (occasionally intersex, which is a different issue entirely). There are differences by sex, whether they are as biological as the ability to menstruate, or not, or as indefinable as in knowing which men will rape, given that it is overwhelmingly men who commit rape, and an astounding number of men who do so.

Class is more than poverty or lack thereof. Class, like race, involves a subculture with a worldview shared across at least regions if not entire similar classes. It’s more-frank speech, not the middle-class language of obfuscation; it’s ‘coarser’ words that represent the nature of working class lives: Greater danger in employment, shorter life expectancy because of it. (We call it plain speak, or plainly spoken, rather than ‘coarser.’ just so you know.) There are also beautiful traditions and visions that would be lost if we were to eschew class for the disprivileged. We who are marginalized ALWAYS have things to teach to those responsible for the world as it is, screwed up as it is. You know that “getting rid of class” would just mean we were expected to ‘rise’ to a class level that many of us would find boring and cold, deceptive and manipulative. Race is at least as replete with traditions and perceptions that have tremendous value to those who have been enriched by them — and which often would deeply benefit the planet! Genuine sustainability has many races, but none of them western-white. Diversity is not just a buzzword from a bygone era. It’s an important reality for those of us who are not among the privileged in all ways, or even in most ways.

We need a real dialog on sex and gender, and on the definitions we choose to use. I do understand that there are places where polite culture wishes to evade the use of the word ‘sex’ because of its cruder interpretations. We could opt to use ‘sex’ for male/female and sexuality for what two people do in intimacy (or one, or three). I hope this, re-edited on July 26th (and now 27th), is a better start. And I really hope to avoid, this time, accusations that I sound pro-trans, or trans apologetic. Seriously? I don’t think so!

The Effects of Confusing Sex and Gender

When we allow the misuse of words, or blur the meanings of words important to our movement, and to radical politics in general, we are weakening our position.

Though sex is biological, legitimately dichotomous except in rare instances of intersex individuals: female or male, gender is entirely contrived. Gender is a construct of, and for the benefit of, patriarchy: masculine or feminine. Even the World Health Organization, hardly a bastion of feminist sensibility, is (sometimes) clearer on sex and gender (see also Note (1)):

“Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define
men and women.

“Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities,
and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and
women.

It’s really ‘men and boys,’ and ‘women and girls,’ in both cases, and sex = male/female while gender = masculine/feminine, for absolute clarity. But the WHO definitions make the correct split, where sex is different from gender entirely. While both sex and gender are hierarchies under patriarchy, because sex is real the hierarchy really matters: female people, for the fact of being female, are oppressed by males.

Often there is a conflation of ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ creeping even into grassroots feminist writings. We hear of “The Divine Feminine,” as though that phrase has real meaning, and more importantly, feminist meaning. We read ‘sex’ and ‘gender’ conflated repeatedly. Academia has done much, beyond simply removing feminism from its base, in blurring the movement’s important definitions: we have Gender and Women’s Studies programs. Why on Earth would institutions decide to host programs for ‘Masculine/Feminine and Women’s Studies,’ except that sex and gender are words they have confused? Why is it not still Women’s Studies, or Female Studies, except that men felt excluded and were accommodated by “good” (patriarchally-approved) women? Why are women so willingly generous to men when they are the oppressors, and the issue is our oppression?

Those things that are culturally valued are claimed by men. Again conflating sex and gender, such “mannish” things are considered masculine, in a benevolent-leader kind of way, things like being:

responsible * strong * capable * intelligent * industrious * loyal

reasonable * wise * mature * sincere * benevolent * fair

Those characteristics are recognized as belonging to ‘good’ men, with widespread societal approval, if not necessarily to truly ‘masculine’ men, as judged by manly (not prissily “good”) men. And of course the characteristics said to be of “good” men are as often, sometimes more often, found in women and girls. Honorable and worthy human characteristics are not sexed; they certainly do not belong to the elite sex, male.

Other characteristics considered as belonging to men, or as being masculine, aren’t necessarily positive though they are often patriarchally-rewarded; these are the characteristics approved by manly men. They may include being:

aggressive * competitive * single-minded/ relentless * stoic

unmoved by others’ emotion * dominant/ dominating * violent

Patriarchy believes that the feminine counterbalances the masculine in this unequal dichotomy, and so the following characteristics are demanded of those mandated into femininity for this balance, women, including being:

passive * selfless * flighty or frivolous * overly emotional

unstable, easily swayed * deferential * cowardly

In this context it should be clear that “feminine” is NOT ‘that which is inherently characteristic of, or common to, women’! Instead, femininity includes those qualities that reinforce female subordination — characteristics which reinforce female inferiority in comparison to males, under patriarchy.

It is vital for feminists to understand, and to not conflate, ‘sex’ and ‘gender.’ It is only when these words are correctly defined and used that we can begin to see clearly the logic in the arguments of Bev Jo, Linda Strega, and Ruston (2a): that “Butch” is Female without the patriarchal overlay of feminine subordination. Butch is Female in her most vital, empowered, and unobstructed state. Every overlay of femininity that a woman carries with her is an act of complicity against the liberation of women and girls. Every reference to “The Divine Feminine” is an undercutting of feminism, a bolstering of female subordination. Sex is not gender; femininity is not feminist and, in fact, femininity works to actively reinforce female oppression.

Butch is, and long has been, a Lesbian who has, her entire life, evaded choosing femininity; she has never capitulated. A case could most certainly be made that Butch, right down to her Lesbian nature, is the unaltered female — but I’m not going to make it here, not in this writing (do see (2b)). (Also see Bev Jo’s incredible theory, along with Linda Strega’s and Ruston’s, in the book “Dykes-Loving-Dykes,” most of it at Bev Jo’s blog, noted above as (2a).)

So as not to appropriate more-marginalized women’s terms, to acknowledge that it is sometimes possible for women to have level relationships with men (rare, but possible), and to name this non-feminine way of being, any heterosexual, celibate, bisexual or otherwise-non-Lesbian girl or woman who later evades femininity needs a name. We could call her a normal, non-feminine woman (but not a non-fem, since by the definition of Butch she is still Fem, she made that choice once); we could call her a currently femininity evading woman, a CURFEW (I do like the idea of women putting curfews on men so that women may travel safely at night, especially) or a C-FEF for currently-femininity evading feminist. We could call her a virago. This, of course, affects me quite directly, so I would love having a say. And I’m sure there are better names and acronyms.

No matter the name chosen, an unfeminine woman, by definition many of whom here would be (or would have been) involved with men sexually, still deals with men’s patriarchal values internalized. This HAS to affect relationships with men. I would be surprised if most men can even see women without the judgment of standards of femininity. And I would suspect that for most all non-homosexual men, their sexuality depends on access to patriarchally-idealized, or feminine, females. Pornography certainly skews the standard, but femininity is basically as artificial as the porn ideal. Pornography is merely an exaggeration of the fixations on femininity — both idealized female body parts and female subjugation.

If women weren’t declaring subservience via complicity to the feminine ideal, how would non-homosexual men function sexually? Of course some men could function, but I wonder if that still is based on breast (and vagina-use) fetishization or the capacity to “see” femininity where it doesn’t exist, or both. Is her short, curly hair “feminine” in reality, or just to him and the same length and style would easily be seen as being appropriately masculine elsewhere? Large breasts are demanded not only in the porn ideal, but also in the cultural idealized view of heterosexual womanhood, enough so that young women frequently seek silicone-implant surgeries. But, ironically, both large size (often) and implantations (usually) serve to reduce breast and nipple sensitivity (3). To the extent that women find their own breasts to be erogenous zones, the preferred aesthetic serves heterosexual men, not women!

For many women, heterosexual or otherwise, I wonder how much the porn ideal shapes self-estimates of sexual desirability. For all women, I wonder how deeply are the norms of patriarchy internalized, taken then as givens. Certainly body shapes and features typical of women are culturally devalued, even demeaned, separate from breasts and sometimes buttocks. Women’s shoulders are relatively narrow, compared with men’s. But narrow shoulders are not considered attractive, not on either sex; wider shoulders are idealized, even on women, especially if the women are thin and not “too” tall. Long legs, more typical of youth, male or sometimes female, are idealized as is a narrow waist — far more rare for women after childbearing. Suntanned skin — but decidedly white skin! — smooth and hairless, is idealized. In so many characteristics, it’s more likely that a young male will meet them than any woman. And yet this is the “feminine” ideal.(4)

Those men who vary from the customary idealizing still don’t meet women as interesting individuals. Instead they simply skew the preferred characteristics: big butt over smallish hips, red hair over blonde, very long hair, or an exceedingly fat body, even to the point of debilitation. Women are still objects required to meet fuckability standards, though slightly amended ones.

 There is nothing inherently wrong with long hair; for many cultures, it is not sexed at all. The same can be said for natural red hair, a genetic-based component of appearance that is found among males and females, both. And while perfectly healthy women may have large backsides and/ or large breasts, and a lot of body fat, especially breast and fat fetishists too often demand a level of profound disability with their ideals. Pornography has forced female body insecurity to a whole new and more intimate level, with labiaplasty, the reshaping of the vulva to fit the porn aesthetic (and, ironically, ‘decency’ standards, for longer labia have been labeled obscene, while photographing prostituted rape is entirely legal!). Another newer surgery, reminiscent of the Victorian-era removal of women’s lower ribs to fit the wasp-waist ideal, is toe-bone removal. Pins replace toe bones in a woman’s feet so that they will better fit in sky-high stiletto heels; sometimes the last toe of both feet is entirely removed!(5)

Not only are women expected to behave in limiting, self-deprecating ways, we are also expected to surgically alter our bodies to a changeable set of patriarchal ideals. Why are we not fighting back? Why are we, in such large numbers, accommodating patriarchal views of our bodies, our sex? Why are we still so unable, in feminist spaces, to talk about sex and gender within this framing?

Some of us do fight back, and this is good news. For all of the infighting, and the recurring need to challenge faltering allegiance to the core principles of radical feminism, including being trans-critical and insistent upon keeping radical feminism open for all women — and not a white, heterosexual, college-educated and otherwise class privileged women’s movement — some of us do fight back. And some of us fight on very personal fronts — we evade the femininity mandate, even if we fail the more-stringent criteria for “Butch.”

Is it possible to actually talk about this? Or do I need to soft-pedal it further, create even more introductory posts, and find alternative ways to approach it other than simply saying, Sister, are you with us or are you against us?

I will say that I think that for most women, heterosexuality is deeply psychologically damaging, to the point that women cannot see themselves without the male gaze taking over their vision, without the mandate to evaluation by standards of sexiness, a male concept, and without the little girl posing that every clothing-store flyer puts them in.  Child porn is normalized, little girls preferred, but adult women will do IF they play along, grovel at the right times, learn their lesser place.  How can that not wound permanently?

And yet feminists who challenge compulsory (meaning ‘conformity absolutely demanded’) heterosexuality are exactly right — we can function with wounds, we all do, and we can make better choices.  We can honor and emulate those we cannot be — Lifelong Butches. In the sense that the personal is political, I think we also need a way to honor those women who later begin to resist patriarchy, who choose to be unfeminine, uncomplicit in the femininity mandate, unfettered by the patriarchal demand. But this needs to be a discussion, not just my voice so adamant on a rarely-read blog.

Yes, I know it’s more complicated than agreeing to stop the conformity cycle: the shaving, makeup, coiffed ‘do, heels and dresses and skirts, jewelry and scents and accessories, and the concern about taking up space — from body fat monitoring to gestures made demure by their intentional restriction. We are OPPRESSED and this is work, I do know that. And there are COSTS to a woman for not following the femininity mandate, I get that, too. But the costs are rarely immediate, and maybe you need to see it for yourself, if you’re clinging to the femininity mandate. Pick a few sacred capitulations, let them go, and see what happens? And while you’re dropping those several habits of femininity, listen to your internal dialog so that you might hear your judgments and your valuations of other women. And then, just maybe, consider the costs to the women who have NEVER capitulated — and realize they have, in fact, lived on.

The personal is indeed political. This isn’t about individual women, though it is about doing the right thing. It’s about women beginning to take responsibility for the effects their actions, behaviors, and words have within the dominant culture, and on other resisting women’s lives. It’s about either complicity or support, because sometimes it really is that damned simple!

I’ve said before, I don’t agree with “if only every …” scenarios. If every woman needed to drop her feminine acquiescence for change to happen, change would never have happened at all — but it has; both positively and negatively, change has come. We can work on moving liberation back toward the positive, toward greater legitimate freedom. But not through coercion, not through the violence of force. And the only way to get to ‘if only every …’ would be through violence; for their own reasons, some will always resist even the most obviously beneficial directive.

If only every woman were Lesbian, patriarchy would end overnight. Probably true, but they’re not — we’re not! And there just might be some small value in staying within the beast to inform those not in it of tactics it intents; and there might be some small value in forcefully challenging the misogyny that masculinity demands. If only every woman would stop giving time, attention and energies to men, patriarchy would dissolve almost immediately. Reasonable, yes, but it’s still not likely to happen. Certainly not without force. What about always giving less than half what a woman has available to give, and then giving the rest, the most, to women and girls? 



And what about those rare few men who do act differently? It is not incumbent upon feminism to change men, not ever. Men are not the issue in feminism. And yet men have the possibility of being allies, and sometimes even more, of doing ‘unmasculine’ things showing that they are not innate. I do believe men are rapists — what happens in war is not an anomaly, and there is a war on women that legitimates rape, anyway. And yet, women talk with one another: there are times when she was tremendously interested in sexual expression, and the man she was with was not — because of his loyalty to and feeling for another woman, because he was not ready, because she was drunk and he didn’t want intimacy under those circumstances. I believe strongly that we live in a rape culture, and I believe that most men, if opportunity exists, will find within themselves some abhorrent motive — and they will rape. And I know that some men don’t. And more importantly, that some men won’t.

I’ve also said that in a normal, tribal society of human-reasonable numbers, a jury of her peers would have no issue with terminating the life of the man who raped her, a woman of the society. Some other time we could explore a better ratio of females-to-males. Many of us are certain that anything like 1:1 is dangerously high for female safety. No woman who reproduces can ever be sure that her son will not rape, or that her daughter will not produce a rapist. We miss terribly, here, in resisting patriarchy. But I have written on this elsewhere, and others within radical feminism frequently further this idea. We understand the danger of males; even more, we can talk about it. Why then do we not see dangers in complicity to the feminine ideal? Why is this never an acceptable topic for feminist discussion?

Still, we do more than miss on resisting the femininity mandate: we so very often support each other, reinforce one another, in bowing to this terribly anti-feminist ideal. Sometimes this insistence toward our sisters’ femininity contains at least some violence: the non-conforming girl or woman is ostracized, and ridiculed when confronted in more-public spaces. And then, think of how often the Ugly Duckling tale, in girl culture, becomes a case of the Ugly one getting her revenge by winning the attentions of males, at her sisters’ expense? We do not ever win when we follow the femininity mandate — hugely, horrifically, we lose! What sanity might we find if we begin to put girls and women ahead of boys and men, in importance in our lives? What freedom might we find if we let at least some of the femininity rituals go? What revolution might at least begin if we were to give to one another the real support of resisting? Real support IN resisting? Are we, can we be, RE-SISTERS? Not if we continue the conflation of sex and gender so that femininity remains quietly reinforced — and by women, demanded.

 

Notes:

(1) WHO gets it basically right, here: http://www.who.int/gender/whatisgender/en/ and
in the text, above, but fails miserably at the site most apt to appear in searches I conducted (4/2013): http://www.who.int/reproductivehealth/topics/gender_rights/sexual_health/en/ where sex is defined (acceptably), though gender is not and the two are conflated. And then there is the weird caveat on the incomplete definitions, suggesting they should not be credited to WHO, anyway:



“These working definitions were elaborated as a result of a WHO-convened international technical consultation on sexual health in January 2002, and subsequently revised by a group of experts from different parts of the world.

They are presented here as a contribution to on-going discussions about sexual health, but do not represent an official WHO position, and should not be used or quoted as WHO definitions.”

(2a) These links, from Bev Jo’s blog, represent some of the most amazingly concise and cohesive theory to come out of feminism; the entire blog is (and the book is) well worth reading!
http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/supporting-butches-supports-all-lesbians/
http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/22-years-later-2012-butch-update/ and http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/the-big-sell-out-lesbian-femininity-by-linda-strega/

The blog itself is here: http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/

(2b) http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/naturally-lesbian/

(3) https://www.google.com/search?btnG=1&pws=0&q=large+breasts+less+sensitive

(4) ‘As Tom Wolfe describes it in A Man In Full, today’s ideal female is “a boy with breasts.” ‘ http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/SchuchardtHefner.php

“The ideal body is now a boy’s body with breasts.” http://www.nytimes.com/1995/04/02/weekinreview/ideas-trends-put-on-your-best-chest-it-s-time-to-preen.html

(5) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2236039/Off-pinky-How-high-heel-obsessed-women-removing-toes-stiletto-surgery-comfier-fit.html

Heterosexuality and Feminism

Recently in a radical feminist space, someone made a case for intercourse, also called PIV (named for the parts), being a form of trauma-bonding. Intercourse is a specifically heterosexual act, which PIV makes even more clear. Intercourse poses inherent risks for a woman. While it may or may not be inherently hard on a female body, she has to trust that he will be careful enough, and receptive enough to her feedback, that he does not injure her. Each and every time: earned and maintained, this trust. Or his “sex” is actually his “raping” her: sex to him is rape to her and she, justly, is the judge. There is the risk of pregnancy, and of sexually transmitted disease. In reality, she is in bed with his entire sexual history of peopled intimacy. There is also the risk of his releasing into her body whatever toxins he has ingested or absorbed from whatever source, voluntary or unwitting. And she can never know what these toxins are, or what he is willingly imbibing that he doesn’t feel the need to disclose to her! All this accounted for, trauma bonding still seems a bit extreme.

If heterosexuality is coerced under patriarchy, being thin is also coerced. This does not automatically mean that if you’re thin, you’re complicit. Since some women are genetically thin, there is no reason to discount it as a way of being, no reason to fight Nature — to fight one’s own body. Having a privileged attribute does not automatically equal self-change to comply, or complicity. To some extent this even works with heterosexuality. Even intercourse. Dangers and all.

But let’s talk about privilege. There is an inane notion circulating among radical feminists — that if it isn’t delightful it isn’t privilege. Privilege is a about a comparison the powerful make: one group is privileged, or rewarded, at another group’s expense. To be rewarded for being in a group does not imply heaven-on-earth for its members. It simply means they will be treated better than the comparison group. Most of privilege just feels like basic, decent treatment. And if you grew up thinking you deserved basic decent treatment, privilege will not astound you.

We don’t, individually, get to claim or disclaim our privilege. That’s not within our power. Heterosexual women ARE privileged over lesbians in all manner of institutional power dynamics: in the workplace and in seeking employment, in schools, in governmental agencies and law, in medicine and religion. In access — in gaining and in sustaining that access. In social valuation. Under patriarchy, heterosexual women are valued, culturally, well above lesbians, and it is precisely for the complicity, the capitulation, that patriarchy understands it to be, that it is rewarded. Patriarchy also values thinness in women, and it’s roughly the same situation: thinness is seen as a sign of capitulation (whether it is or not).

Continuation of the species does suggest that some women might naturally, willfully reproduce. A Nature that is at least neutral would mean there is some sort of female buy-in to this reproduction thing in general. My childhood on a farm means I’ve witnessed female (other-) animal heterosexual desire. Since I don’t take Nature as innately or always cruel, the fact of some adult female humans being inclined toward heterosexual pairing does not surprise me. But some does not imply all. Even among wolves, generally only the alpha female and male mate (and she is said to dominate mating season and den location); the rest of the pack usually does not produce offspring — they do not mate. Shere Hite found that a mere 30% of women even have the capacity to orgasm during intercourse. Can it be said with any credibility that it’s natural for the remaining 70%? And what of those female animals who resist, and then are raped, even gang-raped, or fight back and stop the rape, injuring the male aggressor — don’t their different experiences factor in?



If hetness is seen as a form of capitulation by the oppressor elite, then why do we accommodate them? Why are some women heterosexual? The reasons are undoubtedly many, and somewhat varied, and that should be another essay. Beyond cause, though, we need to look at what the effects of heterosexuality for feminists really are. We need to understand that to be het means to miss the mark of one form of loyalty to girls and women: we have pledged time, energies and a certain amount of loyalty to our oppressors. This is reality. Having sons only further reduces the loyalty available for women and girls, and having sons within a rape culture endangers loyalty to females terribly.

I also think we heterosexual-privileged women need to consider our credibility. We should be subject to the same kind of ‘disregard of expertise’ that prostituted women still within the clutches of the sex industry receive. When your very life, down to the continuation of your breathing, depends on spinning the institution in the most positive light, you cannot be objective, or honest. Self-preservation also means that certain truths remain hidden, even from oneself, so that terrible realities don’t become unendurable, overwhelming. In the eyes of the culture that both demands and rewards it, to be a “wife” is a form of prostitution, of sexual servicing availability. To be a heterosexual woman but not a wife merely means the form of payment varies some. To be a woman who has sex with men means to be someone who is violated, penetrated, fucked. This is the only option the patriarchal mind can envision.

What, then, does it mean for a heterosexual feminist to say, “I love intercourse”? What exactly does she love and for what reasons? And what are the real political implications of that announcement in a culture where PIV is both compelled and viewed as capitulation? In a culture where woman-loving is always devalued under patriarchy’s terms of power?

Does it mean she’s delighted to a fuckable object? To be chosen thus? To be overtaken, penetrated like an enemy line, the demarcation the vulva in this war against women? I doubt it! And yet too often this is what intercourse, called “sex,” means to men.

Does it mean she has experienced intercourse as an integral part of “lovemaking,” where he has met and held her eyes, carefully, bridging across their separate humanness, to show her how much he values her, loves her, cares about her, puts her needs on par with his own? Does it mean she rejoices in the delights of her animal body and the intimate joys she finds in sharing it with a beloved other?

Does it mean she is backing feminist minds away from the idea of trauma bonding, and telling us all that it needn’t be so for those of us who are willing to risk the perils and live among men?

Does it mean that the sensations of intercourse, separate from its cultural or sexed meanings are pleasurable to her? Where, then, to put the cultural and sexed valuations, and the hierarchy that puts woman-loving far beneath man-loving, within the patriarchal frame? Can we really ever be separate from the effects of these? And what does it mean to lesbians, already culturally devalued, when we state our allegiance so openly to the oppressor class? It can’t be positive.

So what, then do we do? We work for women, we work for the empowerment of girls. We work for female physical and mental health and safety and nourishment and nurture. We work to grow the bonds across difference that know can be created, and we work to sustain them — we listen, especially carefully, to those women over whom we wield very real power in our privilege, and we learn and then we do (whatever needs doing). We give more to women and girls than we do to men and boys, and we hope this is enough to help build a woman-affirming feminism.

Femininity?

I’m wondering how to reconcile the ideas in these two posts, or if that is possible, or even wise?  First this:

http://oriahsinvitation.blogspot.ca/2012/10/betraying-feminine.html

What I call here “the Goddess” is also known as the divine Feminine that lives within us all– men and women. There is no self-blame here, only a sense of what we must unlearn if we are to embody the sacred marriage of the Feminine and the Masculine in ourselves and in our communities. […]

A culture based on a principle of power-over does not encourage men or women to know the deep power and beauty of what we are. We are all, beginning again and again, the long walk home together.

And this, attributed to brilliant radical feminist author Lierre Keith:

Masculinity is simply a conglomeration of the personality traits necessary for the patriarchal soldier-rapist: physically strong, emotionally cauterized, rational, domineering, cruel. All of this is supposed to add up to “handsome” as well. Likewise femininity is ultimately a description of the personality that results from trauma and powerlessness: weak, passive, yielding, emotional, hyper-vigilant to the needs of the dominators and desperate for the dominator’s attention.

I’m wondering, really, if there is a purpose to ‘divine femininity’ or if it doesn’t just reinforce what Lierre describes as femininity, for women.

And yet, what would happen if the word ‘feminine’ were replaced with ‘female’ — the divine female, the Goddess?

In that all marginalized groups are reduced (washed) to fitting in with the elites (white-washing, male-washing, het-washing, middle- or upper-class-washing, etc.), and wherein the problem is that each marginalized groups holds necessary truths and often unspeakable beauty and beneficience, would dismissing the divine female not normalize maleness at a great cost to we females?

And I’m wondering if it is possible within radical feminism to acknowledge the presence, however viewed, of both male and female humans, without ever over-valuing males (or making marriage mandatorily heterosexual!), while also acknowledging the further marginalization of some males compared with some females, and the fact that this marginalization — often deadly, even genocidal — is also shared by females? The divinity focus tends to forget the oppression of females, of power difference inherent in the sex hierarchy, just as it conflates sex and gender: sex is male or female, and very rarely intersex, while gender, masculine or feminine, is a social construct (is FAKE) enacted in the manner Lierre describes. And yet there are males I know who work hard to use their privilege to re-empower females and to educate or block hostile males, guarding feminist spaces. I know for certain that I am, and other sisters are, better off for their efforts.

NOTE: Please don’t use any form of the word ‘intersection’ here — ivory-tower words coined by tokens who know not their own herstory are unwelcome.

Men Rape: Normal Male Sexuality

I’m currently reading Octavia Butler’s The Parable of the Talents, but it could be any book, really.  Any history, any women’s literature, any feminist work, anything chronicling the actions of men who have power over others, including women.  We know what happens in that situation:  even good, kind, family men conspire to find logic to justify raping.  Not unlike the businessmen who, when in Singapore, routinely visit child slaves whom they rape for payment to the children’s keepers.  Not unlike men who go to strip clubs and pay for a little extra.  Not unlike the male bonding act — using a woman’s body though it is mostly incidental, as a thing in which to ejaculate — gang rape.  Not unlike the very many men who peruse the ‘net or bring home the movies, movies depicting the actual photographed rapes and the sexual slavery of innumerable women.  Or, sometimes, men.

Two things are clear to me.  First, men rape.  Second, “normal” male sexuality is in need of an Other to penetrate; it is territorial, power-ensuring, a form of mastery, privilege-promoting, always hierarchal, with the Other merely a means to an end:  friction adequate to accomplish his orgasm.  “Normal” male sexuality is a terribly solo act, something done inside his head, inside his body; it is deeply selfish — it is all about HIM and in the end, only about HIM.

In this writing, the author suggests that men project onto women their own desires:

[Images become] a substitute for sexual feeling, that sexual feeling becomes externalized and out of control and is given an undifferentiated identity in the appearance of women’s bodies. It is a process of projection in which one blurs one’s own desire with her imagined, projected desire. If a woman’s attractiveness is taken to signify one’s own lust and a woman’s lust, then when an “attractive” woman is raped, some men may think she wanted sex. Since they perceive their own lust in part projected onto the woman, they disbelieve women who’ve been raped. So long as men project their own sexual desires onto women, they will blame women for rape.

But that’s just another way of saying that “normal” male sexuality is tremendously self-obsessed, self-centered.

Not all men rape — but a whole lot of men do.  And more men would, if only they could and not be caught and punished for it.

How many men do rape?  In an article headlined “1 in 4 Men Admit Rape,” the actual stat is 31%, a bit closer to one in three men who claim to have actually raped women and girls.  Maybe the 1 in 4 is easier to take.  This is in South Africa, war-torn and western-empire ravaged.  What about the US, where I live?  

Mary Koss seems to have found that 1 in 4 or 5 women will have been raped by men, or rape will have been attempted.  The old stat, which Ampersand found to parallel a 4-5% actual-rape admission rate by college men, was 1 in 8 women.  One in eight women of college age will face attempted or enacted rape.  Does that mean the 4-5% number has also doubled?  That 8 – 10% of college-age men will now admit to having already raped?  At best, about one in 20 to 25 men is an actual rapist.  And, if doubled, it’s closer to one in ten.  But this statistic only accounts for college-age men.  With all men, the percentage might be lower; college age is said to be about the peak time for men to rape.  And yet men who are now older were once that age, were once, presumably, just as likely to rape.  So what about the fact that these men who aged also gained in power and in access to female bodies, to power directly over women and girls?  One good site, offering a 1997 analysis of US data, suggests that 40% of rapists are men age 30 or older.

Still, these statistics are all in average patriarchal times.  What about difficult situations — what about where men are accorded or take extreme power over others, including women?  What about war times?  In Octavia Butler’s book, with its collapse scenario, even good, kind, family men (staunch Christian men) conspire to find logic to justify raping.  From here:

Susan Brownmiller was the first historian to attempt an overview of rape in war with documentation and theory[5] . Brownmiller’s thesis is that “War provides men with the perfect psychological backdrop to give vent to their contempt for women. The maleness of the military—the brute power of weaponry exclusive to their hands, the spiritual bonding of men at arms, the manly discipline of orders given and orders obeyed, the simple logic of the hierarchical command—confirms for men what they long suspect—that women are peripheral to the world that counts.” She writes that rape accompanies territorial advance by the winning side in land conflicts as one of the spoils of war, and that “Men who rape are ordinary Joes, made unordinary by entry into the most exclusive male-only club in the world.”

Under normal circumstances, then, some men rape.  Under circumstances where, simply, there are a lot of single females around a lot of single males, the statistic rises to over half of men reporting they would rape if they could get away with it.  The statistics are here.  And here.  And here.  51 to 60-some percent, depending.  The stats on how many women are raped?  Those are easy to find, direct and to the point.  The stats on how many men are rapists?  Those are obscured, difficult to locate and cloaked in unclarity when they are unearthed.  But given the logic of increases, under more dire circumstances, most men will rape.  Men rape.

And the stories of men stopping rapes, intervening when their friends start in with the banter and the attitude, are just legion … oh, wait, they’re not.  To be a man under patriarchy is to learn to get along, know one’s place, and NEVER confront another man who is in your group.  Cajole him out of his errant ways in private, but other than persuasion, well, what can you expect the poor guy to do?

I expect a great deal, honestly.  I expect men who truly feel they cannot help themselves, that they must rape, to suicide.  If no female, no woman or girl, is safe with them, then they have a duty to their species to remove the rest of the species from their impending, inevitable danger.  They have an obligation to not tarnish those of their sex who are not inherent rapists so that such males can exist as allies to women and girls.  I am willing to take them at their word, and I am willing to see them cease to exist.

And I expect men to ally with girls and women, and specifically with radical feminist women, without question.

It would be after this minor revolution, should it ever actually happen, that “normal” male sexuality might reasonably be pondered.  There is nothing but taint at this point:  the unchallenged use and abuse of female beings as devices for friction enough to get him off.  Don’t like that?  Challenge it!  Don’t like that I wrote it?  Make it untrue.  But make it untrue in your community as well as in your own life.  Personal solutions mean nothing when revolution is necessary.  The revolution is not personal; it is for the re-empowering of groups who have been marginalized.  Nor is the revolution private — let’s talk about this.

The Illustrative Value of ‘Pro-Feminist’

A couple of decades ago, when I was part of an activist’s listserv, I heard a compelling argument for keeping feminism by, for and about women, and using a different name, pro-feminist, for male allies.  Because feminism’s effects — all those repercussions, all the outrage and the consequences and the benefits, alike — accrue to females only, feminism is a word for female activists.  I don’t recall which radical woman staked the territory, but the fallout was dramatic.

Draw the hard line, and men, who will NOT be denied their entitlement, their access to naming, their right of defining, fight fiercely for this no-woman’s land.  They will demand, badger, cajole; they will rally other women’s support — either in the group itself or among personal acquaintances; they will challenge the credentials of any woman who blocks their easy access to this simple word.  Since the first battle I witnessed, I have understood that limiting ‘feminist’ to females is an excellent way to determine whether a man can be an ally — that is, can he assist without insistence on leading, on controlling, on having his way and on access to everything important?  Remember, we are talking about the fight against female oppression — where the repercussions aren’t going to impact him directly, where the oppression is not his.  In fact, feminism exists because he and others like him are privileged, are over-valued within the sex duality.

Men who can act credibly as allies are far more likely to accept limitations on their name access.  Men who are asked nicely to cease, and yet push on, demand their presumed due, insist that they will have what they want against a woman’s expressed discomfort … honestly there are names for men who refuse to take No for an answer.  The simple one is ‘bully.’  It’s not the only one.

Drawing this line is illustrative, even eye-opening.  But it’s so for another reason, for women’s responses, too.  What do women’s reactions mean, for sisterhood, when one woman tells men in a group that she doesn’t like them using the name that belongs to females — and another woman quickly rushes in to assure the men it’s OK for them to call themselves whatever they wish?  And another woman challenges the first woman’s right to stake any territory within feminism as her own?  I think it suggests that sisterhood is, so far, unlikely.

Before I ignite all of your defenses, I wish to say that words are less the issue than actions.  I care most what people do.  At the same time, my point here is not so much the wording as the reactions that occur around limiting ‘feminism’ to females only.  The reactions are telling — magnifying the issues that already exist within feminism.  Issues with men.  Issues with other women.

I would suggest that, tactically, we as women either tend to forget or actively deny a great deal of our oppression, of how it works, especially.  While we might like or sometimes even love individual men, they are still a part of the sex-caste, men, which oppresses women.  Men oppress women.  ALL men benefit from the oppression of women.  The only thing that men can do to ameliorate this unfortunate fact, really, is to declare and then enact their allegiance to women, without question.  To give loyalty to women who are fighting the oppression of male supremacy — misogyny — especially.  Loyalty has nothing to do with leadership, with claiming higher knowledge, with demanding access to all of value.  As I have suggested, such maneuvers of superiority at least border on a rapist mentality.

But we, as females under male supremacy, have been groomed to see as reasonable any loyalty flowing the other way, from women to men.  If men oppress women, if all men benefit from the oppression of women, then this loyalty is not in our own best interests — who looks out for females in this framing?  We must!  But we have been taught that  we can never be anything but kind in facing down our oppressors — we must be fair, we must never hurt them as they have hurt us.  We forget, just as we’re supposed to, that we aren’t equal going in, so it’s not the same if we do something — it’s not “just as bad as men” when women take a hard stance.  It’s not “just as bad as men” who formed exclusive clubs if oppressed women want to separate and heal.  Those men’s clubs excluded from a point of elitist privilege, whereas separatism allows the oppressed their space away from those who have hurt them.  And denying men access to a named oppression resistance that ONLY affects females, ‘feminism,’ cannot be claimed to be “just as bad as men” who kept women from positions of economic power, which is, again, elitism.  By definition, the oppressed cannot be elitist toward their oppressors!

And we have been taught that we need numbers more than we need quality or commitment in our allies.  But are a few difficult and demanding men really worth more than our alliances with one another?  And isn’t that the false choice the men-nurturing women are giving in to?  If men are being excluded, the woman doing the excluding has to be made to stop.  But for what reason?

What is the effect of women stepping in to say that they disagree with any limitations on men’s access?  To me it looks very much like male-appeasement — like a chance to step up and be regaled as The Good Woman, perhaps the kind woman, generous, loving, nurturing of course, not one of those extremists, harpies, too-radical types that give feminism a bad name!  And I have a hard time fitting male-appeasers into the feminism I hold most dear.  More honestly, I could name them patriarchally complicit, even saboteurs to a valid sisterhood!

I have seen situations where a woman confronted a man, and her sisters stood back, gave her space, and let her offer the challenges.  If she asked or it was clear she needed backup, other women came forward.  But not a single woman rallied to the side of the confronted man.  And not a single woman chastised her for being unfair or unjust.  It can happen, and when it does, it’s beautiful.  Unfortunately it has not yet happened in my view in regard to the name ‘pro-feminist.’  We aren’t there yet, I don’t think.  And we need to be — regardless of whether or not you believe that men are reasonably called ‘feminists.

It’s Not Oppression

Recently a blog post hit the feminist Facebook groups, launching hand-wringing and finger-shaking like little else in recent memory.  It would be funny, almost uproariously so, if so many feminists hadn’t latched onto this little piece of privilege.  The topic:  ‘femme oppression’ within feminism  Yeah, right.

The first thing that came to mind is how similar this is, in essence, to light-skinned Blacks claiming persecution from their melanin-blessed peers for passing privilege.  Except in all the years I’ve been following and reading, I’ve not seen Black folks fall for this oppression pretense.

The second thought to hit me is that this is, put more simply, a case of “You hate me because I’m beautiful” speak.  Although I’ve known white women — and a few men — to pick this up and run with it, for the healthy-ego crowd, it’s always been just a joke.  Simply a joke:  a joke on privilege, and the entitlement that so often accompanies it.  This dramatic level of pompous deservedness easily rings false.  So why doesn’t ‘femme oppression’?

My answer to the question of why women — feminists! — cling to femininity is Lesbophobia, and more specifically, the terrible fear of the loss of privilege for any woman who is not overtly signaling her availability and loyalty to patriarchy, to men.  Femininity is complicity, it’s passing privilege, it’s compliance to dualisms on a hierarchy, and male is always ‘more.’

The basic problem with the blog post is that it never moves beyond the dualisms.  In, fact, it never even questions them, it simply breaks femininity into patriarchy’s version, and an imagined feminist version (bold in original):

One can even be a feminine [woman] and fight against enforced gender roles and stereotypes (shocking I know, but only if you’ve still internalized Patriarchal ideas about femininity).  One can be feminine and a serious feminist.  To say otherwise suggests that one cannot be feminine and serious and worthy of respect, which means that women who don’t ape the ways of men aren’t serious or worthy of respect, which means women aren’t serious or worthy of respect.

http://feminist-armchair-regime.blogspot.com/2012/04/femmephobia-is-everywhere.html

But there is more than this given duality.  There is femininity, of course, the docile and decorative, emoting and immature, impulsive extreme, one end of the allowed line.  And there is masculinity, the demanding and rugged, wear-worthy, stoic and mature, logical other end of the same line.  Most of us fall in between, at least.  Maybe it’s more apt to say that most of us form a sphere between the polar extremes, not unlike the Earth on its axis points, another of Nature’s realities.  But if most people can be pegged as either somewhat-feminine and somewhat-masculine, there is another group that has the potential to take the line and make it a triangle by the addition of a third point.  Call that point “Butch.”  Because Butch is the distillation of what female human beings would be without the overlay of patriarchy.  A female without the demand for perpetual adolescence and emotionality, without the decorations that render the wearers vulnerable and awkward and slow, without the unhesitating male-reverent loyalty to patriarchy’s elite … would be Butch.  And Butch would be a celebrated, honored state of being.

I offer this all as food for thought.  I wish no woman to face her own complicity, and feel shame or pain for it.  I do wish, however, she could see Butches and realize she is looking at our legitimate sheroes, brave souls who wouldn’t or couldn’t comply and who have generally faced horrific cultural condemnation for it.  That we, non-Butches, or femmes, have survived, is enough.  And that needn’t take away from the tremendous gift that Butches share by their precious existence — we can evade the mandates, we can fight and not capitulate — and still survive.  At least some can — some have.  And, oh, what inspiration we should draw from those who fought back and remained true to themselves, true to what is legitimately female, what should really be the personification of ‘feminine.’  What should be, but never will be; patriarchy owns the dictionary and the printing presses, and before that, even, the power to name and define.

There is a sliver of truth to the blog post:  that which is considered female and thus devalued needs reconsidered.  So much that is not-masculine, like the abilities to nurture, to listen, to connect with another being, is valuable, even vital to a fulfilling life.  Yes, women are inherently worthy of respect.  And women who have fought to not capitulate to the mandates of patriarchy are especially worthy of respect, a warrior’s respect in this war against the female psyche, soul and body, too.  Butches are the strongest, clearest survivors.