Thursday, April 16, 2009

On Misogyny and Genderism, Trans or Not

[Image is from here]

A core piece of analysis that I hold to, and have for over twenty-five years, is that man and woman are political categories more than they are anything else. This acknowledges that they ARE also social, cultural, mythic, religious, and ethnic categories, at least for those who use those English terms: "woman" and "man". This piece is speaking to those who use those words in English to mean "the [only] two sexes".

If dominant society cared enough about oppressed people to pay any attention at all, it would be obvious that for centuries cultures far more sustainable than the Western dominant one have understood, appreciated, and celebrated "Gender" as being about MORE than "two kinds of people, opposite in nature". This view of gendered people as "opposites" is an absurdly and dangerously sexist, racist, anti-Indigenous idea. It's also not that old, even though we promote stupid misogynist stories like Eve being born from Adam's rib. (Even if we believe in this patriarchal tale, we're usually forgetting entirely that Lilith* was in The Garden BEFORE Eve, and wasn't born from any bone of any man!) For many centuries in the West, for example, it was assumed there was one sex, male/man, and that female/woman was a sort of "inverted" man. No, really. See this for more. There's also plenty written, as if that's the only way we can know things!!, on how "Gender" is done in other cultures, and at other periods in human history.

The Womanist and Feminist critiques of gender I value, hold that the politics of gender (together with race and class) must be understood and challenged, to the root. My position is that if we in the West pretend that the two-gender system is maintained, with great force, as a hierarchy then we are doomed to never arrive at anything that resembles freedom for women from men's tyranny, subordination, oppression, and discrimination. Also left to continue unchallenged is men's horrifyingly normalised violence against women.

That said, I have been profoundly disappointed by the predominantly white, mostly class-privileged queer communities which I have known intimately, and their/our refusal to deal with gender this way--to talk about it this way, but also to do activism for girls' and women's freedom based on looking at it this way. Especially lacking has been such an analysis being combined with one in which class and race, among other ways of controlling and categorising people, are also understood as primarily political phenomena.

And if anyone knows of queer activists and queer communities who ARE taking the sexual political hierarchy, aka the two-gender system--"woman, the lesser, the submissive, the femme; and man, the greater, the dominant, the butch"--seriously as a political problem that must be confronted and radically altered, please let me know where those conversations and activism are happening. I'd like to support such work.

*From this website, with commentary added in brackets by me:
Lilith was Adam's first wife before Eve. Adam married her because he became tired of coupling with animals [and not, of course, because she could engage him in meaningful intellectual conversation or witty banter], a common Middle-Eastern herdsmen practice, though the Old Testament declared it a sin (Deuteronomy 27:21). Adam tried to make Lilith lie beneath him during sexual intercourse. Lilith would not meet this demand of male dominance. [This version of the Lilith story pre-exists Andrea Dworkin's book, Intercourse, just so you know. Dworkin didn't make it up that men try and dominate women through sexual intercourse; men did.] She cursed Adam and hurried to her home by the Red Sea.

Adam [being a self-absorbed, misogynistically possessive dickwad] complained to [that male in the sky] God who then sent three angels, Sanvi, Sansanvi and Semangelaf, to bring Lilith back to Eden. Lilith rebuffed the angels by cursing them. [This is one of my favorite stories!] While by the Red Sea Lilith became a lover to demons and producing 100 babies a day. [As "bad women" are want to do.] The angels said that God would take these demon children away from her unless she returned to Adam. [All one hundred per day? Couldn't He leave her with, say, two or three, just to grow up and help her out by the Sea?] When she did not return, she was punished accordingly. [And we are not surprised.] And, God also gave Adam the docile Eve. [Ah, Eve: the original Barbie to the Old Testament's Ken.]
END OF POST.

4 comments:

Christina said...

What you say here makes me think of some of the sexist misogynist fairy tales that come out of white male dominated societies such as show white and sleeping beauty.

In all these fairy tales the hero who saves the poor young women is the strong white heterosexual male prince.

So from a young age girls are been shown that they are weak and gullible and will always fall for some evil trick. But luckily the strong white male will save the day.

And after he has saved her she will have to become his wife whether she likes it or not.

These fairy tales always end with a happy-ever-after, but for whom? The so called damsel in distress now has to live in subjugation and serve her new master i.e. the white heterosexual male prince

These fairy tales make these arrangements look so natural to young girls that when they grow-up they often don’t even think to question them

Julian Real said...

Hi Christina.

Thanks so much for your response.

Just as you say, this indoctrination into the "romantic/idyllic" world of white heterosexual male supremacy starts before children can even understand they are being brainwashed with very politically dangerous messages.

The first time my eyes were opened to the political-psychic-cultural disaster that is " Western fairy tales" was when I read the first sections of Woman Hating, by Andrea Dworkin, in which she made the links between what you are raising and the themes in pornography. (Adult white heterosexual male fairy tales, with less than "happy endings" for women).

It really horrifies me to know that yet another generation of children, or two, or three, will be raised by Disney's versions of many old European fairy tales, including, ironically enough, those tidied up versions of the disturbing collection of stories, brought to Western society by the brothers Grimm.

One of the best video recommendations I have on this subject is Mickey Mouse Monopoly. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend it. It's viewable on YouTube, and is put out by or at the Media Education Foundation. It does an excellent job of pointing out the racism as well as the misogyny, in Disney's animated films. And in this film women of color actually speak for themselves!

On a related and depressing note, I heard this week that the manufacturers of Barbie earned 3.3 billion dollars in 2008.

Your comment also made me think about all the white male "heroes" who are coming "home" to stolen land in the U.S. after showing their heroism by killing at least one person of color somewhere in the world, including, for example, very poor Somali men. (Nevermind that the CEOs who ship "goods" all over the world are killing far more people in one year than Somali "pirates" could in a thousand years.

I am left with these questions: In order to become "a U.S. military hero" is it a prerequisite that one kill at least one person of color, if not a whole family or community, including by raping the women and girls who lived there? Are putting out forest fires (set by white male supremacist ecocidal practices), or landing a passenger plane on the Hudson River, or leaving footprints on the moon while polluting the stratosphere, the only other ways to be "a hero"? It appears so.

I take it that this means women, as a group, of any ethnicity, cannot and will not ever be seen as "heroic". Even those women who manage to fight like hell to prevent themselves from being raped by a U.S. white heterosexual male military "hero". Even those everyday women who fight to overcome lives of horror at the hands of men.

Who (and where) are the men who are as socially/culturally/politically honored for showing women levels of respect, not contempt?

When will women be honored for showing one another respect, and fighting collectively or individually, in any number of ways, for women's lives to be free from white heterosexual male abuses? And by "honored" I mean, in part, by dominant mass media, by CNN and MSNBC's around the clock coverage.

I suspect the white heterosexual male knight in shining armor, with the blood of women and men of color quickly wiped off before the camera starts filming, will be the ones who remain "heroic" in front of our eyes--eyes trained to have mass media tell us who our heroes are.

Christina said...

The sad reality is that murder and rape are both very much prerequisites for U.S. military white males to become heroes. History alone proves that. But let’s not just stop at white males in the military. What about all those white male businessmen who go on business trips to poor third world counties so that they can have sex (Rape) underage girls? Yet they are held up as heroes in their white male dominated boardrooms.
Or what about all the white males who rape and abuse illegal immigrants knowing that these young girls cannot go to the authorities for fear of deportation.

As for the brainwashing with sexist fairy tales, it just doesn’t stop there. As children start to grow-up they become exposed to superheroes such as superman and batman. These heroes are based on the all powerful white male who protects the white male version of what is right and true while all other groups appear to be totally helpless without them.

Its time Disney started to create fairytales that identify white male supremacy as evil and see the heroin take it on and defeat it at the end.

Julian Real said...

I agree totally with your comments about white businessMEN, and how immigration laws, racist to the core, anti-Indigenist to the core, and in the service of the powerful elites far too often, put women and girls at risk, worldwide.

I don't think Disney Corp. has much interest in portraying white male supremacy as the evil it is, and it's most powerful advocates and enforces as the evil they are.

At best, Disney, and all corporate media, will tokenise some female hero, probably white, and will never make a woman of color be a hero.

I noticed that some comic book is going to make a hero of Barack Obama. I'm waiting for Michelle Obama to be made into the superhero, but Lorde knows, her body will be pornographised first, put in some skin-tight outfit molded over a body that is not Michelle's, for them to do that "successfully".

Holy racist misogyny, Batman!