Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Women, Men, Love, and Hate: A Radical Profeminist Perspective Calling For Patriarchies to Be Unplugged

image of white baby boy is from here
What are the chances that society will teach the white boy pictured above, and every other boy, the difference between what it means to live in a society in which women are loved, respected, and regarded as fully human by men, vs. what it means to live in a society in which women are hated, disrespected, and regarded as sexxx-things for men to control, possess, beat, rape, or incestuously abuse?
Oppression meant the U.S. in Vietnam, or apartheid in South Africa, or legal segregation in the U.S. Even though I had been tortured and was fighting for my life, I could not see women, or myself as a woman, as having political significance. I did know that the battery was not my fault. I had been told by everyone I asked for help the many times I tried to escape--strangers and friends--that he would not he hitting me if I didn't like it or want it. I rejected this outright. Even back then, the experience of being battered was recognizably impersonal to me. Maybe I was the only person in the world this had ever happened to, but I knew it had nothing to do with me as an individual. It just never occurred to me that I was being hit because I was a woman. 
Woman Hating was not a book written out of an ideology. It came out of an emergency, written half underground and in hiding. I wanted to find out what had happened to me and why. I knew only that it was impersonal. I made a list of what I thought might bear on what had happened to me, and that list became the table of contents in the published book. I looked at fairy tales--what did they teach about being female; at pornography--I was part of a generation that used it--what did it say about being female; at Chinese footbinding and the persecution of the witches--why was there culturally normalized violence against females; at androgyny--the myths and contemporary ideas of a community not organized on the principle of gender, the falseness of gender itself. I wanted to examine the culture: sex roles; sex; history; mythology; community.

Somehow, I had been given a key and access to a space in the basement of Paradiso, one of the clubs the Dutch government sponsored for counterculture, hashish-smoking, rock-and-roll-addicted hippies. The basement under the huge church building was dark and dank with a colony of misfits and homeless, mentally disoriented strangers, most of whom were hiding from someone, often the police. I was allowed to work there on the book--I had a desk and chair--but I was not supposed to sleep there, and I tried not to. My cohabitants did not inspire confidence and my husband, who worked upstairs at night when Paradiso was open, was dangerous for sure. Like other escaping battered women (I have since learned), I lived in a shared or overlapping social and economic world with the batterer; I tried to believe it would be all right.
The book Ricki and I were going to write together became, of course, very important to me. I don't know if the attempt was interrupted by the violence or the violence was interrupted by the attempt. I know that I devoted myself to the book, even though it was hard for me to concentrate because I lived in constant fear. I held on to the book as if it were a life raft, even though I was drowning in poverty and fear. There were times of hope, near normalcy. At one point my husband got a new apartment and offered me our old one. I took it, for all the obvious reasons. He left a mattress; someone gave me a small radio; and I lived on potatoes. Then he started breaking in; and it was there that he bloodied me and said he would kill me, run me down when he saw me, and I knew it was true finally, and I had to hide in the movie theater after that for three weeks, the time it took to get a restraining order. My lawyer, assigned by the court, at first didn't believe me or didn't care when I told him about the beatings or how dangerous my husband was; but later my husband apparently roughed up the lawyer's secretary. This time, when driven from the apartment by my husband's threats to a phone in a store around the block, the lawyer told me to go somewhere else for a while, though he didn't know where or how and didn't care. I had had to go to the store to use the phone because the apartment phone was in my husband's name, and he had it disconnected and it was a two-year wait for a new line. As I came out of the back room of the store where the phone was, the woman who owned the store opened her cash register, grabbed a handful of bills, pushed them at me, and said: "Run for your life. Now." I did.
Through all this, I held on to this idea of a book; and I kept working on it. Ricki and I did research together and some writing together. But then she pulled away from it. The book itself, in taking on counterculture pornography, brought us into conflict with friends and acquaintances in the exilic, counterculture community in Amsterdam. Some of these folks produced a pornography tabloid called Suck. Ricki and I drafted a chapter on Suck and gave it to them to read. I, at least, believed that they would see the insult to women in what they were publishing, and that there was danger in some of their photographs--I remember in particular a photo of an Asian woman inserting a huge, glass, bowl-shaped jar into her rectum. I had begun to identify with other women. Our friends, the makers of the pornography, reacted with outrage to our effrontery in challenging them. They said they had always been for civil rights (against segregation based on race) and this was sex--what kind of chicks were we anyway? We thought we were perfectly fine chicks at the time, even though the word "chick" itself was beginning to have an ugly sound to it. Ricki decided that she couldn't take the social ostracism these folks threatened. We agreed that I would finish the book and get it published. I had to get out of there anyway or I'd be killed. I knew I had to disappear and that there could be no mistakes. I planned a secret escape and in November 1972 I disappeared suddenly.
The vow that I made--out loud, to myself but with Ricki as witness--was that I would become a real writer and I would use everything I knew to help women. I didn't know how much I knew, how valuable it would be; nor did she. But we both did understand that in 1972 what I knew was not part of feminism: what I knew about male dominance in sex or rape in marriage, for instance. The knowledge about male dominance in sex came not only from this one marriage but from several years of prostituting before I got married. I called it "being on the streets," and it consisted of equal parts whoring, poverty and homelessness, and just being a tough girl. I had never kept it a secret, not from my husband, not from any friend. Ricki and I both understood that I had experience that could be knowledge. I made a vow to use it for women.
Writers need to be damned hard to kill. So do women, of course. I have never believed in suicide, the female poet's alternative to standing her ground and facing down the power of men. I don't like it that Plath and Sexton wrote strong and beautiful poems capturing the horror and meanness of male dominance but would not risk losing socially conventional femininity by sticking around to fight it out in the realm of politics, including the politics of culture. I always wanted to live. I fought hard to live. This means I did something new. I have been bearing the unbearable, and facing men down, for a long time now.
I began messing with men when I was in high school, though, sadly, they began messing with me earlier than that--I was raped at nine, though not legally, since fingers and a hand were used for penetration, not the officially requisite penis. That ended up in my hand as he twisted and contorted with a physical omnipresence that pinned me and manipulated me at the same time. This breach of a child's body does count. It does register. The boundary of the body itself is broken by force and intimidation, a chaotic but choreographed violence. The child is used intentionally and reduced to less than human by the predator's intelligence as well as his behavior. The commitment of the child molester is absolute, and both his insistence and his victory communicate to the child his experience of her--a breachable, breakable thing any stranger can wipe his dick on. When it is family, of course, the invasion is more terrible, more intimate, escape more unlikely. I was lucky--it was a stranger. I was lucky by the standards of today: neither kidnapped nor killed. The man became part of the dark--not "the dark" in its usual symbolic sense, bad, with a racist tinge, but part of the literal dark: his body, almost distinct, got folded into every dark room like the one in which he hurt me and he got folded into the dark of every night I had to get through, with eyes open, waiting. I didn't like to sleep, because then I couldn't guard my mother against death. So I kept my eyes open. I could feel that the night was occupied with tangible creatures, and the man, hiding, was one of them.
As a child with an immense ambition to live, to know, to feel, I moved toward everything that frightened me: men, night, the giving up of my own body. I wanted to be an artist, by which I meant a writer. I despised commercial writing. My heroes were Rimbaud and Baudelaire. I had a paperback of Baudelaire's poems with me, in French with an English prose translation, when the man molested me. A few years later I had a high school teacher who said that most girls of my social class who worked (the ideal was not to work) became hairdressers, but I was so smart that I could become a prostitute, which at least was interesting. He was my tutor in sex; a guide; a charlatan and an exploiter. But he made the sameness of art and opening my legs palpable, urgent: there wasn't one without the other. I thought he was a philosopher and someday we would found a school of philosophy; I would be his acolyte. He introduced me to Camus and Sartre. I was a motherless child with spirit and intelligence in a world that abhorred both in girls. I wanted knowledge but distrusted formal education because the adults were enforcers and transparently wanted to break my spirit; except for the seducer. He wanted to appropriate it for his own purposes but I didn't begin to imagine that. I would find ways to go to New York City to find poems and on the bus I would find a way to get money from old guys who liked teenage girls to touch them. I'd use the money to go to Greenwich Village and buy mimeographed collections of poems. I loved Allen Ginsberg especially. More than anyone he expressed the sense of pain I felt, the anger and rebellion, but also the undifferentiated infatuation I felt for the world of possibility around me. I had no sense of evil and I didn't believe that harm could defeat me--I'd make poems out of it. High school was hell, to be endured, the teachers behavior-police who took books away and tried to shut the mind down. For instance, a tenth-grade teacher in a study hall confiscated my copy of Hamlet, which I had been reading. She said we weren't allowed to read it until the twelfth grade. I told her that I had already read it several times so why take it from me? She did take it and countered with her certainty that one day she would read about me in the newspapers. In those days only politicians and criminals made news. Girls didn't become politicians. I was bad for reading Hamlet. Each day the enforcers pushed me into a sustained rage laced with contempt; and each day the seducer manipulated my anger and loneliness, pushed me further into experiencing intelligence as a sexualized mark of Cain and artistic ambition as a sexualized delinquency. -- Andrea Dworkin, Autobiography (1994), from *here*

This is what is preDICKtable:

When most men read writings by women men perceive to be hateful, they will take GREAT offence, become histerical, and see such writing as evidence that women hating on men is a global problem that must be snuffed out by any means necessary.

When many women read writings by men they experience as hateful, they will often often respond with a kind of reasoned resignation, as if to say "Yeah, what else is new? Same story, different day."

Online anti-feminist men are apparently convinced there's something 'out there' called misandry--not committed by MEN, but committed by WOMEN. These delusional people will cling to Andrea Dworkin's writings as "proof" because men love to believe women hate them, ridicule them, don't respect them, and find them generally distasteful. And how many countries did Andrea Dworkin rule? How many courts did she oversee? How many juries did she advise? How many institutions or industries did she control? How much profit did she make from selling rape of women as entertainment for men? How rich was she? How much money did she earn from her dozen or so books? (The answer is shockingly low. You have to write books about boys as courageous, about men as heroes, to make any money at all, if you're a woman.)

Can you count on one hand, two hands, twenty hands, the number of men who rule countries that don't respect women as full human beings? Please make sure you put "the United States" on the first hand. Please add "Canada" too. And "England". And "Australia". And "Japan". And most any nation-state you know of. Even the few Scandinavian countries which are trying to end the procurement and rape of women. Because the procurement and the rape hasn't ended anywhere yet. So women are free nowhere. Even in societies in which women are generally regarded as human, there will always be white men to arrive and remind them what white men think women, globally, are for. Class-privileged white het men in Japan do this a whole lot, for example. And they do it a whole lot in Australia. And England. And Canada. And the United States too. Everywhere white het men go, they carry with them a belief in their absolute right to have sexual access to women and girls. But they don't call this protection of a right wrong as "hate".

These privileged men also will not see women who love women, sexually, romantically, socially, and politically, for what it is: being loving. The also won't see women's critiques of male atrocities for what they are: loving.

To whatever extent actual negative portraits of men exist, socially, they will not ever be regarded by men as a class as a crucial aspect of women gaining some sense of freedom from the imposition on will, on being, and on life, of the primary patriarchal commandment: THOU SHALT NOT DO ANYTHING TO INSULT, DEGRADE, OR DEMONISE ME(N), who are to be revered as gods. This follows the commandment, a very Conservative Corporate Christian one: THOU SHALT DO EVERYTHING IN ONE'S POWER AS A MAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND COLLECTIVELY, TO INSULT, DEGRADE, AND DEMONISE WOMEN.

There is a sexual politic to hate. Here is how it works: men are allowed to hate women, or not. Men can show contempt, callousness, or cruelty and always claim "It's because I love ya, baby!! Why don't you SEE that?? Why don't you KNOW that?!"

Women are not allowed to do anything at all that might possibly be perceived by one man or many men as being contemptuous, callous, or cruel to one man or to men in general. If a man takes offence to what a woman does, no amount of pleading for him to understand it as not-hate will stop him from beating the shit out of her, castigating her publicly, or killing her.

A group of college students was segregated for an exercise, by sex. The exercise went more or less as follows.

Female teacher asked a classroom full of male students: "What do you fear most about women?"
The most common answer from individual males was, "She will make fun of me."

Same female teacher asked a classroom full of female students: "What do you fear most about men?"
The most common answer from individual females was, "He will kill me."

This gets to the bloody heart of the matter, doesn't it? Men realities with women are radically different, globally, than women's with men. Women, by media and by men, are incessantly assaulted. Men, by women, are made to accommodate males, to accept males, to appreciate males, to approve of males, to find men endlessly fascinating even when men are boring as hay.

This post, just as it is, noting the most obvious things about men's hatred of women being an institutional and interpersonal problem, that comes up against little to no resistance within patriarchal societies, will be seen as some kind of "threat" to men. As if words on blogs threaten men. As if words on blogs can have any significant impact on stemming the tide of men's misogyny, which floods women's lives at least twice daily.

What men cannot see and cannot accept is that men hating on women is a social problem and men dominating and subordinating women is an ever larger problem. What men cannot see is that women hating on men, however much it happens, has no institutional backing or media support. Even corporate pimps portray it as a kind of fetish of men's: something some men "are into" which has no grounding in cross-cultural social reality. What corporate pimps know, however, is that portraying all women as if they want to be raped has grounding in a very lethal reality: men do wish to rape women and accomplish this, with almost no men ever being charged with a crime, or otherwise suffering any negative consequence, other than more of their heart and soul chipping off and falling away.

We might just as well do away with the term "hate" and find out what's really going on, because "hate" is not really the issue. Men can and do feel all kinds of things for women, and call them all "what is in women's best interests". If men despise women, it's because women deserve it and need it. If men love women, well, men get to behave atrociously and still cling to the claim that it's an expression of love. And, worse yet, they are believed!

When women do disdain or disrespect one man or men in general, she cannot claim that "It's really love, baby--why can't you see that??"

Meanwhile, men do systematically and endemically rape women, singularly and in gangs, at home and in motel rooms and in wars and in "peacetime". Women do not systematically or endemically rape men anywhere.

Father-against-daughter incest, or father-figure or adult male family member against daughter-figure or girl child, is the most common form of child sexual abuse on Earth. Yet the patriarchal media are far more likely to report on boys being abused by men. This is because girls being abused by men is so common a practice that it we would have to add hours to the day to report on all the cases.

I saw a program not too long ago in which the woman host remarked with great sadness, "One in six males will be sexually abused in their childhoods". Is that horrible? Of course it is. It's a criminal shame. And we cannot forget for one moment that over 90% of the perpetrators will be men. "Good" men. "Trusted" men. "Holy" men. Socially adored and respected men.

Let's break down what that means relative to the experience of girls. Twice as many girls as boys will be sexually assaulted--predominantly by men--by the time they reach adulthood, if they reach adulthood.

The sadness felt for boys assaulted in their youth, by men, is felt culturally. It resonates in the bodies of those who hear this news as "Awful. Truly awful." Because it is awful. But the sexual assault of girls is registered in the bodies of the masses as "inevitable", or "unfortunate", or "Why didn't the mother do anything to stop her husband or boyfriend, huh?" As if women have ever been able to regulate men's sexually predatory behaviour. Get this, reader:

If a woman DOES catch her predatorary male partner raping her/their daughter, and she is also being battered by him, and she leaves him, this is what typically occurs:

She is charged with the crime of stealing HIS children from HIM. She is charged with being abusive to the children. Her claims that she was beaten are seen as evidence that she is an evil woman who will do anything she can to selfishly hold onto her children while demonising the prick. The pricks get expensive attorneys who make these arguments to pro-patriarchal judges and juries, who award him full custody and call her a criminal. She's a criminal for leaving the prick; he's not a criminal for beating and raping his wife and children. Now, tell me: where's the social love for women and girls in that?

Is not the act of incestuous molestation or assault or rape a father or father-figure stealing something from a girl? Is this theft not a crime against humanity? Ought not such a man be forbidden by society to ever have access to the child again?

And what of men who desire girls sexually and publicly? What of men who, collectively, socially lust after girls? Who want to fuck girls? Who want to see girls depicted as "sexxx-things for men to get aroused by"? For men to fantasize about, to use as fuel to bring firm up their determination as they make their way into the bedrooms of their daughters?

Is both the desire and the depictions "love" of girls? That's what men say. The term for this condition in men, after all, is "paedophilia", isn't it? "Love of children". Not misopedia: hatred of children. Men who desire to fuck girls and who do rape girls are called "lovers of children". Now, how fucked up is that? If this doesn't show that men don't know the difference between love and hate, what does?

Women, especially over the last forty-three years, have gotten very clear about what men's hatred of women looks like, feels like, and is. And women over the last forty-three years, especially, have realised that men not only hate women, but men don't regard women as human enough to see as full human beings. Some men don't hate women because to hate them one might have to recognise them as human. So some men just hold women in a kind of callous disregard, and in this frame men feel quite comfortable wiping their dicks on girls and women, as if that's what girls and women are for. Men traffic girls and women, as fuck-objects, as objects, as possesions, and as slaves. Men beat women and girls without mercy. Men terrorise girls and women without ever calling it terrorism. Men, collectively, never call this TERRORISM.

I am demanding that men stop terrorising women and girls; that men stop trafficking women and girls; that men stop raping women and girls; that men stop beating up women and girls; that men stop using images of women and girls as their fuel to invade the bedrooms of their spouses or children; that men stop incesting their daughters or other girls in the family; that men stop thinking of women and girls as existing to serve men, to submit to men, to be subordinate to men. I am demanding that men get off women's backs and fronts. That men stop all the hating and love that feels like hate.

And to any man reading this who thinks it is hateful of men, I have only this to say: go fuck yourself. And do it exactly the way you see men in pornography do it to women. And then you might know what hate truly feels like.

I call on humanity to institutionalise male respect, regard, empathy, compassion, and dignity for all women and all girls. To make it mandatory. To make it compulsory. To make it a social requirement for admission into the social and intimate world of women and girls. I won't call on men to "love" women, because I know that for too many men, that word has no spiritual meaning at all. It is, rather, men's excuse for doing to women what anyone with a beating heart would call hatred if women expressed it the same way to men.

I hope women, internationally, rise up against men's domination, men's humiliations, men's indignities, men's assaults, men's insults, men's tyranny, men's terrorism, men's anti-democratic ways of being against individual women and against women as a class of human beings regarded by men as existing for men. And I hope patriarchies everywhere are unplugged soon. Very soon. Perhaps within the next few years. If not sooner. I hope patriarchal societies fall like Dominoes. And that when they fall they crack into pieces too tiny to put back together. I hope for this so that girls and women can know life without men's exploitation, without incest, without rape, without economic servitude, without sexual slavery, and life without men's social and personal terrorism and tyranny. With love in my heart for womankind, I hope for this. Not with hate for manunkind. I will hold out faith that you, dear reader, after taking in the realities described in this post, will intellectually and viscerally know the difference.

The reason I love women of all colors is because women are human beings who show a form courage I've yet to see in white men. Women are collectively enduring a globalised system of male domination, too often in isolation, feeling alone, trapped. These individual women who are experiencing what millions of other women have experienced and are experiencing on this day, will all too often blame themselves for conditions well beyond women's collective control, let alone individual control. At the same time, the most enslaved women are creative, finding ways to survive, get through another day. There is resistance going on, even when it looks like appeasement. I know millions of women worldwide are waiting for the right moment to rise up, collectively, not individually, to get out from under him and his ritually abusive rules, to move out of reach of his grip and to cast off his grim view of what "woman" is for. I refuse to see women as existing for men. I see women as existing for themselves, for Life, for Being. I see women as existing beyond any definitions of "woman" that men entertain and enforce.

The reason I don't hate men is because it is a waste of my energy and it clouds my capacity to see what's going on. Men are human, every one, no matter how monstrously they behave. And there are, after all, some very dear men in the world: Derrick Jensen, Noam Chomsky, and Nelson Mandela. A problem--one of many--is that almost no men on Earth will focus on the oppression of women by men as a central atrocity faced by humanity. Not the only atrocity. But a central one. One worth fighting to end, with all of one's being behind the effort.

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