Sunday, December 13, 2009

What If Women Ruled? (The Way Men Do)

[image is from here]
21 March 2010ECD UPDATE: at the suggestion of a radical feminist reader, I'm adding this caption to the above image:
"The Master's Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master's House" -- Audre Lorde

I have heard in the last several years a great deal about the suffering of men over sexism. Of course, I have heard a great deal about the suffering of men all my life. Needless to say, I have read Hamlet. I have read King Lear. I am an educated woman. I know that men suffer. This is a new wrinkle. Implicit in the idea that this is a different kind of suffering is the claim, I think, that in part you are actually suffering because of something that you know happens to someone else. That would indeed be new.

But mostly your guilt, your suffering, reduces to: gee, we really feel so bad. Everything makes men feel so bad: what you do, what you don't do, what you want to do, what you don't want to want to do but are going to do anyway. I think most of your distress is: gee, we really feel so bad. And I'm sorry that you feel so bad--so uselessly and stupidly bad--because there is a way in which this really is your tragedy. And I don't mean because you can't cry. And I don't mean because there is no real intimacy in your lives. And I don't mean because the armor that you have to live with as men is stultifying: and I don't doubt that it is. But I don't mean any of that.

I mean that there is a relationship between the way that women are raped and your socialization to rape and the war machine that grinds you up and spits you out: the war machine that you go through just like that woman went through Larry Flynt's meat grinder on the cover of Hustler. You damn well better believe that you're involved in this tragedy and that it's your tragedy too. Because you're turned into little soldier boys from the day that you are born and everything that you learn about how to avoid the humanity of women becomes part of the militarism of the country in which you live and the world in which you live. It is also part of the economy that you frequently claim to protest.

And the problem is that you think it's out there: and it's not out there. It's in you. The pimps and the warmongers speak for you. Rape and war are not so different. And what the pimps and the warmongers do is that they make you so proud of being men who can get it up and give it hard. And they take that acculturated sexuality and they put you in little uniforms and they send you out to kill and to die. Now, I am not going to suggest to you that I think that's more important than what you do to women, because I don't.

But I think that if you want to look at what this system does to you, then that is where you should start looking: the sexual politics of aggression; the sexual politics of militarism. I think that men are very afraid of other men. That is something that you sometimes try to address in your small groups, as if if you changed your attitudes towards each other, you wouldn't be afraid of each other.

But as long as your sexuality has to do with aggression and your sense of entitlement to humanity has to do with being superior to other people, and there is so much contempt and hostility in your attitudes towards women and children, how could you not be afraid of each other? I think that you rightly perceive--without being willing to face it politically--that men are very dangerous: because you are. -- Andrea Dworkin
[What follows now has an additional section added to what was originally posted. The additions were put in twice on 14 December 2009, ECD.]
Two white men talking...

M: So my frustrations with feminism are that many of its most popular spokespeople, you know, such as Dworkin and MacKinnon, Mary Daly, Susan Brownmiller, Robin Morgan, were so hostile about men, and expressed this in their work, and some still do. And so many people have been shaped by their work, have taken it for gospel, and follow it as if it were gospel.

T: And you identify hostility against of a group of people by what phenomena?

M: With repeated statements, like in books, that make all men seem like rapists, for example. With comments about women not being able to be free until manhood is dead. You know, basically calls for the genocide of men.

T: So you take "women won't be free until manhood is dead" to mean a requisite genocide against men by women?

M: Well, obviously it is inferring that all men will have to die before women are free. What else could it mean?

T: It could mean that manhood, not men, needs to die.

M: In what sense isn't that basically saying men need to die?

T: Are you your manhood? Is that what makes you you? Is that what defines who you are as a person?

M: I am a man. So my being is "manhood".

T: Why isn't your being "human"?

M: Well being a man is being human.

T: So taking away your manhood, for you, means taking away your humanity, or your life?

M: Yes. Of course.

T: I think what you  are telling me is that you believe men cannot stop the violence men do to women. I think it means that oppressive manhood, sexist manhood, racist manhood are so central to your understanding of what "men" are, that you, yourself, believe that for women to be free there would have to be a genocide against men. And that you are projecting that onto many women writers and activists, who, in case you haven't noticed, aren't calling for a genocide against men. It's men who kill each other daily; women don't kill men daily, rape men hourly, punishingly batter men into terrified people in the course of minutes. I've always wondered why men aren't furious with men for how men treat one another, individually and internationally--as men, not only as representatives of a nation or a state. What's the male angst about feminism all about? After all, it is and always has been about liberating people from dehumanisation and desperation. That work has always included a critique, not a tragic defense of the systematic training that children get, in so many ways, to be human in patriarchal and racist ways.

M: Men I know are concerned and upset by what some women write about us. We are NOT all rapists!!

T: And so if two or twelve or two hundred--or even two thousand, or even two hundred thousand--out of, say, a few BILLION women worldwide say, in writing or in speeches or in prayers, something that sounds like they believe all men are rapists, or that men must die for women to be free, how precisely does that impact your life--materially and substantively? How does it impact men as a class, the billions of men who actually believe women are inferior to men, or that women exist to serve men, and that men should have legal and unlimited sexual access to women and girls? I get you and your pals are upset by it. But how are men as a class impacted by these writings you keep mentioning, as if they were irreversable orders from a god that has never existed for women?

M: You are really minimising how their writings, those overgeneralising statements, threaten our existence.

T: You mean the one's you don't understand the meaning of? The ones you won't ever address in a political context in which women are raped and murdered by men, daily? Those few writings that never get posted and shared along with all the quotes by radical feminists that you won't highlight because they speak, passionately and earnestly, about how much women want men to be humane, and want men to take responsibility for that happening? A few women's written words threaten your existence? Really? You actually believe that, huh?

M: Yes.

T: So then literature and media must seem mighty powerful to you. I mean if a few books have that effect, can you even imagine the effect, say, sexist and racist media playing 24/7 on several hundred cable television networks might do?

M: If that's what women were saying in it 24/7 it would be terrible.

T: But things are not that bad now, for women? You think that forty years ago, say, that men were living humane lives, treating women with respect, not producing television commercials for airlines that had mostly blond white women dressed in tight flight attendant uniforms say into the camera "Come on and fly me."

M: I remember that series of commercials. They were harmless and fun, until radical feminists made them seem dangerous.

T: Have you been an airline flight attendant who has had ads like that portraying you as someone who welcomes people, humorously, to have sex with you, to be gawked at, commented on, and groped by your passengers--that you don't welcome or want while you're working because that's what NOT what you're there for? Have you, sir, had to measure up to ridiculously irrelevent standards for what it means to be a flight attendant by wearing slacks that show the contour of your buttocks and the size of your genitals?

M: Well, it's not a crime for men to enjoy looking at an attractive woman, is it?

T: If only that were the outer limit of what men do to women. If only. And do you realise that women aren't working in public places SO THAT YOU CAN LOOK AT THEM--or don't you? You get that they are there to do a critical service job, they are there to earn money which requires, in that job, to be knowledgeable about how to keep passengers--female and male--safe, and reasonably comfortable in their seats. And that the female staff also get to feel and be safe, right? And not like they are sexxx things for hetero men to stare at and visually violate as the women do their work? They're not there to stimulate your eyes and mind sexually, you know. They're not moving targets for your patriarchal gaze.

M: Some women like that attention, you know, and don't get all freaked out when a man appreciates her beauty.

T: I'm not talking about you appreciating a person. I'm talking about you visually violating a person based on ways she must, according to her contract, present herself in ways not offensive to heterosexual men who think gawking at and occasionally groping women is recreational fun. If you think those two acts are one and the same, that tells me a whole lot about you and how far your humanity extends to women striving to get though another day doing their work.

M: Take Hooters. Women like working there, and they wear tight outfits, and don't seem to mind.

T: And you know they don't have any choice about the outfits they wear, right, just like back in the day when flight attendants wore short skirts, don't you? They wear those outfits or they won't be hired. If they stop wearing them they'll be fired.

M: But some women knowingly take those jobs.

T: Yes, because women need jobs to earn money in a capitalist system. You know that at Hooters, for example--since you brought that sexist and racist restaurant into the conversation, women, in order to work there, have to sign away their rights to legally charge any customer with sexual harassment, regardless of whether or how often they are harassed by men with a few beers or a few chicken wings in them?

M: That's not true.

T: Go look it up. There have been appeals in courtrooms made to overturn the Hooters' management from requiring women to give up that right. You get that this means that the U.S. social and legal systems value and privilege men's right to visually, verbally, and physically violate women, over women's right to take legal action against men who sexually harass them.

M: I still don't believe you about women having to sign that kind of form in order to be hired.

T: Go read the Hooters hiring and employment policies on the subject.

M: I will!

T: And in the mean time, consider how those ads and those policies and men's entitlements to have various kinds of access to women's bodies puts women in danger, but doesn't put men in any danger from women. I'd say that alone is infinitely worse that  a few dozen lines of text in books that are, in many cases, out of print, that are interpreted by some men to mean that a few feminists want male human beings to disappear off the face of the Earth. I'm just curious. Do you think taking away whiteness and eliminating all forms of white supremacy, eliminating all the values, policies, and practices that shape and in various ways constitute the social systems that generate and reinforce whiteness and white supremacy would require killing all white people, or, even, any white people?

M: I think those that speak of doing away with whiteness mean for that to happen.

T: Because you think behaving like a man who objectifies or degrades women--the women who are fully free to name it and say it is degrading, that is--and a white person who discriminates against and disrespects people of color, behave the way they do because it's natural to do so?

M: Basically that's true.

T: The feminist writings I read don't believe that's true, and quite reasonably argue why that isn't true, simply by comparing white supremacist and male supremacist behaviors, customs, and laws from era to era and region to region. Is it possible that you simply aren't understanding what's being said because you assume patriarchal manhood and racist whiteness are somehow natural and inevitable?

M: I don't think manhood is going anywhere any time soon, unless those feminists take over, that is!

T: It likely won't change significantly as long as most men feel the way you do, interpret women's writings the way you do, defend oppressive manhood the way you do, and project onto women ideas about yourselves that you carry far more deeply that feminists do--even those few dozen radical writers you seem so especially concerned about.

M: Look. I've read so a lot of that sort of stuff by radical feminists, stuff that they say that paints all men with one brush--there are lists of them, dozens of passages or quotes... they all say basically the same thing. All men are evil or worthless. Women bloggers of many colors write this.

T: Apparently the ways white male supremacists want to paint all women with one airbrush, or use one tool in Photoshop to turn images of actual women into images of women who don't really exist doesn't concern you quite so much.

M: I know what I've read, and it's especially dangerous stuff.

T: I will tell you that I don't think you are comprehending most of what those women are saying because you're not reading most of what they're writing--you don't understand the perspective from which they are speaking, and you are too caught in white conservative or liberal worldviews and value systems, and entitlements to "not get it", to be genuinely and respectfully engaged by what they are saying. And you are, quite remarkably and notably, unbothered by all the men who have written, in books, in magazines online and offline, that women are evil or worthless and that women must die. Your political radar and record books don't seem to pick up that men have ACTUALLY--not in fantasy--killed millions of women because they thought women were evil, or worthless. No such occurrence has ever happened in the entire history of recorded human activity by women against men for being men. You get that, right?

M: Well, not that we know of. But that doesn't mean it hasn't happened.

T: Yes, well, given that men controlled all the old presses that mass recorded white men's history, as well as the stories that make up that history, chances are some of those men would report something like that, don't you think?

M: I suppose so.

T: I mean if men form whole networks devoted to misrepresenting what a few radical feminist women have the audacity to put down in writing, chances are men would probably want to keep tally on the deaths of men who were killed by women.

M: Well, there was Aileen Wuornos--the woman serial killer of men.

T: "the woman" is right. Can you list two more? Now, can you go online and look up "serial killers" on the Internet, such as to a place like Wikipedia, known for misrepresenting what radical feminists do, because it is a place controlled by men, not by women of any color. And when you go there tell me how many male serial killers they list, note that almost all have been white, and that not a single mass-murdering man was retaliating against women for how they raped and grossly sexually assaulted and exploited him. Which is to say, we ought not take her murders out of a context in which her few victims WERE some of the men who raped her. Is what Aileen did comparable, statistically or politically, to all the serial murders of Black women in Boston a few decades ago--none of whom raped their killer? And is what she did comparable statistically and politically to the murders--and rapes and other acts of political terrorism--committed by all the male serial killers of women of all colors? Does it concern you as much as one woman's actions do, that hundreds of men  misogynistically and not so magically make women "disappear" due to what women do to them? Do you even track how many Mexican women "disappear" due to men's capture and lethal violence against them, near the border between that country and the U.S.? Aileen's existence is, in your mind, is actually comparable on your moral, ethical, and political alarm to crimes against humanity to, say, the millions of women destroyed by witch hunts in Europe and the U.S., among other places? How many dead women  = one dead man, sir? How many dead women of color  = one dead white man?

M: I'm just saying that the case of Aileen Wuornos shows that women are not any better than men. That women are not superior to men.

T: I'm not sure you got this newest millennium's memo, but nothing much has shifted globally in terms of which of the two mandated genders in the West, and beyond, is valued more and believes itself to be superior. That would still be men. And that men believe this and act on it with entitlements, discrimination, subordination, and myriad forms of violence against women, reads just like the millennial memos in the past: only this memo points out how the Internet and other new technologies create even more ways to violate women.

I think the Wuornos case actually shows, if her whole story is told, is that men as a class, cannot morally or politically make any claims to being any better than the worst crimes against women men perpetrate that, generally, are not even prosecuted as crimes. Because the men who don't do the direct harm individually, in groups, and en masse, pretend and promote women as being one of three things, none of which is the case: inferior to men, equal to men, or superior to men. Women are not that. Women are treated as inferior while men proclaim that women are ought to be equal to men, or somehow, in ways no social science can measure and conclude, already have structurally superiority and greater social status than do men.

I think what you and so many men bringing up what a tiny percentage of women do to harm men, while minimising or denying the seriousness and degree of what men do to women that his harmful... I think that tendency in men, acted out in so many ways, shows that men are what misogynist men say women are and what women want: men are the one's without noticeable souls who just want to fuck. Men are the ones who want rape--and they want it to be legal, where it isn't already.

I think this pattern of denial and distancing, shown by you in this discussion repeatedly, shows that men are invested, in so many ways, in the mass denigration and mass murder of women and also of some groups of men such as gay men of all colors and heterosexual men of color. Why some of you keep the focus on what a few women say that virtually no woman acts on, is a sign there's something else going you'd rather NOT focus on--that men are doing to women inside the motel rooms, in living rooms, and inside the institutions and industries white men control. I think you'd rather NOT focus on the policies and practices you and your brethren enjoy that harms women, and instead pretend that what Aileen Wuornos did, only as a survivor of men's rape and gross exploitation of her, is, in some bizarre convoluted way comparable. What one woman does is comparable to what millions of men do shows how distorted men's perceptions of women's power is, and demonstrates the extraordinary levels of denial men participate in, together, to support one another believing that those few men Aileen did kill is actually comparable to all the women killed by men--the male serial killers, mostly white, the male rapers and batterers of women--almost always targeting women of their own ethnic group, the male pimps and procurers of women, the facilitators, the overseers, the defenders and deniers of all the human rights crimes against women that men have perpetrated and protect, forty years ago and to this day. I think for a raced gender known to be intelligent and logical, you sir, as one representative of this class of men, reveal your logic and your intelligence to be entirely and egregiously self-serving.

I'm going to try something here. Let's assume that is what all those women that men don't understand actually HAVE been calling for: for men to be wiped off the face of the Earth. Let's say that one or two dozen women, over forty years, have been writing book after book calling for exactly that, and only that.

M: They have been.

T: No, actually, they haven't. Have you read all of Alice Walker's work? Or that of Patricia Hill Collins? Have you read Audre Lorde's essay about her hopes for her son? Have you read what Andrea Dworkin says about her father and brother and life partner in her book Life and Death and to 500 men at a men's conference? Have you noticed Catharine MacKinnon isn't and never has been a serial sexual assaulter of men? Have you noticed that Mary Daly and her followers don't band together or act individually and find classrooms of men or groups of boys to shoot to death because they are men and boys? I'm just wanted to check out reality with you. Bear with me.

What is more serious to you, as a person, as a moral being--what is more dangerous, more lethal, more terrible: things that are written in books that might incite violence against one gender by the other, or violence that is done against actual people, not just written as an action by a fictional character in a novel, not expressed as rage in an essay. I'm talking about the the actions of one gender, with power, that really do threaten the lives and end the lives of thousands of people precisely because they are one gender and not another?

Which is morally or politically worse, more dangerous, more of a social concern: what several white feminists write or have written forty years ago about men, or what men have been doing to women of all colors for the last forty years, not only in writing? Which is worse, to you? Which is more of a danger to society? That pornographers make material that teaches boys and reinforces in men that women like to be abused by men? Or a few books by women who are pissed that pornography teaches boys and men how to be aroused by racism and misogyny? What do you think makes more sense: That men, as individuals or in organisations, discredit and demean several feminist radical feminists--Black writers and white writers and other writers of color--who directly critique men's misogynist behavior? Or that some women wonder why the hell men don't protest and boycott the pornography industry for telling lies about women and men's sexuality?

M: Well, since pornography doesn't "teach" anything, and basically just causes arousal, and feminist books incite hatred of men by women, I'd say feminist books are worse and more politically dangerous.

T: Even though "the feminist book industry" is not and never has been a million dollar a year industry, but pornography--which certainly sells hateful ideas about and actions against women--is a multi-billion dollar a year industry? You see the former as more powerful and dangerous than the latter?

M: I know men who use pornography and they respect the women they are with. I know feminists who have read all those women and say hateful things about men. And with pornography, in many cases women DO like to do that stuff. So it's sex for women too. And some women make pornography now too. So I think what women write about men is more dangerous.

T: So, let's say we reverse this, OK? Let's say about two dozen men write that at least since capitalism began, and even before that, women have believed they are superior to men, and have behaved as it they are, naturally and because a female God says so. And for a long time all laws were written only by women. And for centuries judges were all women. And for centuries politicians were all women.  And women did and still do health studies only based on populations of women, and assume the results will apply to men too. And women teach women's history as the only history. And women teach children that only women are heroes, and great thinkers, and great people. And make God into a woman only. And don't allow men to be priests, because they aren't in the image of God. And all the stories in the Bible were written by women, and any stories that had been written by men or that talked about men as being just as close to God as women are, were thrown out because at the time the book was being put together, men actually did have some power and women wanted to put an end to that. So they made all the stories about women, and pretended men never did anything spiritually miraculous and amazing.

And also in that forty years, with women in charge of governments and police forces, legal institutions and educational systems, with women in charge of media, advertising, and "adult entertainment", hundreds, not dozens, make and distribute material that makes men seem like they are dirty, and need to be or want to be degraded and raped. And they have many billions of dollars to spend on doing this, and these sorts of images and themes find their way into advertisements and TV shows, like CSI: every week a woman has murdered another man in some gruesome way, and the grim, gross details are shown, and people enjoy this, they watch it and like it--it's entertaining.

And women consume the pornography and like it and find it entertaining. Which would you be more concerned about: men having written some books, or women having control of every major institution and also producing material that said "men exist to be degraded and raped"? And, away from media and the public spotlight, women are beating the shit out of men in their homes, and are raping men in their homes, crawling into windows at night and raping elderly men, taking boys off the street, pulling them into cars, and raping and killing those boys. Women teaching boys how to have sex with women who pay for the opportunity to do so. Walking into a college and shooting fourteen male students, because they are male. All that is happening or has happened, for centuries. Making men "disappear", often one woman making many men disappear over a few years or a few months.

M: That would be totally unfair, and horrible. That would need to stop.

T: Which is worse in what I just laid out:

What men might do because of some writings forty and thirty year old writings by men, in books that are in many cases out of print--saying that womanhood needs to end, that what women are actually doing to men, privately and institutionally, is using sex as a weapon. That women are making, marketing, distributing, en masse, images of women hurting men, abusing men, insulting men, degrading men, shoving things into men's bodies and making it seem both painful and pleasurable at the same time. And women not only producing that stuff, but women consumers taking in those images of sex being used as a weapon against men. And watching those images in order to relax, to unwind after a long day at work, or to get aroused. And also to get their husbands and boyfriends to do that stuff, because women like it and women pornographers, some of whom are millionaires many times over, make it appear in the videos and photos that men like it all the time.

That many men, but not most, are being influenced by a couple dozen books by men which state in various ways that women are harmers of men, are sadists against men and boys, are perpetrators of atrocities against men, about how "women are all rapists", and how women have too much control over institutions in society, and how that harms men's self-worth and human rights. And these couple of dozen male writers name the abuses done by women in their lives. They tell their stories. And many of them are horrific. Which would be worse?

M: Well, clearly women having all that power and control, and all those resources and methods to tell women what men are for would be worse than a few men writing about how much they hate that. Clearly, what the men would be writing about and wanting to happen would be in response to what the women ARE doing. I mean if women are harming men all the time, every day, and make that into entertainment for women, and are also in charge of media, then I don't think a few books by men being pissed off about that would be comparable, really.

T: Because you'd understand there's a connection between being in charge of social, economic, and political institutions, and media, and pornography--that men are being harmed by all of that, and are also being harmed directly and often by women, at home, on the streets, at work if it is outside the home, when men are out just going for a walk at night, or are playing sports during the day, or asleep in their beds. You'd understand that the material displaying the men as things to be harmed, and women having that much social control, and women harming men wouldn't be separate and totally unrelated experiences for you?

M: No. Obviously not. If women had THAT much power... it would be terrifying.

T: Well, M., men DO have THAT much power, and do all those harmful things to women and have for centuries, and if a couple of dozen women are really pissed at men for that not ending and actually write that down, express that anger in writing, that's NOT worse than what men do to women. That's not even "dangerous". That's not institutional and interpersonal "harm". That's freedom of expression. That's responding to being in danger, REALLY in danger. That's fighting for human rights, not taking away human rights.

M: Oh, I see the point that's being made. OK, I get it.

T: Good. Now please pass it on to all the men who don't.

M: That won't be easy.

T: Well, will you do your best and tell every man to do his best too?

M: OK.

T: Thanks. Really. Thank you for doing that and thank you for getting that.
Men who want to support women in our struggle for freedom and justice should understand that it is not terrifically important to us that they learn to cry; it is important to us that they stop the crimes of violence against us. -- Andrea Dworkin