Showing posts with label feminism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label feminism. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Is Kody Brown a Feminist?

One of my readers once commented that she follows the manosphere because she doesn't have cable. I laughed with self-recognition at that remark.

Two months ago I finally broke down and got Direct TV, and as you can see, I've practically given up on following the Angry White Guys as a result. I've spent the past couple of months binging on television. My partner and I are currently addicted to Black Sails, Better Call Saul, and Vikings, and on my own, I have become a promiscuous consumer of true crime and obscure documentaries.

We're not into reality series much, with one notable exception: Sister Wives

As I've shared in the past, I have a great deal of interest in LDS Church history, being on my mother's side the descendent of Mormon pioneers. I was raised with a particularly dim view of plural marriage. The only twig in my family tree who actually had more than one wife was Uncle Charlie. According to my mother, poor Uncle Charlie and his wife Susan were perfectly content until he was "bullied" by the Church into taking a second wife, after which they hardly had a moment's peace. Now I am not at all convinced this is true. (My mother, like the rest of her family, was never one to let the facts get in the way of a good story.)

Like the Brown wives, they lived in separate houses fifty yards apart.
Subsequent reading -- and living in cultures where polygamy was commonly practiced -- only reinforced my perception that plural marriage was generally a bad thing for the women and children (and, often, for the men) involved in it. At the very least, it was ill adapted to life in post-industrial economies.

The Kody Brown family has indicated that they agreed to participate in the reality series Sister Wives because they had a spiritual mission to share their story, and to convince mainstream America that they were a "normal" family.  In my opinion, they've been very successful. In fact, they seem more "functional" than most monogamous couples I've observed: more respectful, more communicative, more committed.

If an emotionally intimate, committed relationship between two individuals is a crucible, the crucible of marriage amongst five strikes me as exponentially more intense, and greater both in terms of potential rewards and strains. It's clearly not for everyone, as the Browns themselves admit (and they cheerfully accept that some of their own children reject plural marriage for themselves).

It was easy from the start for me to like the wives (Meri, Janelle, Christine, and Robyn), all highly intelligent, thoughtful, and attractive women. It was easy for me to be enthralled with the ideal of "sister wives." And spending time with a spouse once every four days strikes me as just about right since I happen to cherish my personal time and space. But I am surprised to find how much I have come to like and respect Kody Brown, a man who expects his daughters to pursue higher education and professional careers, encourages both his sons and daughters to have long (and chaste) courtships before marriage (because a solid marriage is based on friendship), and who reminds one of his college bound daughters that her body is her own ("and even after you marry, your body belongs to you").  

I don't know if Uncle Charlie and his wives were proto-feminists, BTW, although it's worth noting that during his lifetime Wyoming was the first state to grant women suffrage. I do know that he was very fondly remembered by the folks of my grandparents' generation and was most decidedly not a patriarchal a-hole.
Kody Brown
Is this what a feminist looks like?

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Call Me Anything You Want (Just Don't Call Me Late for Dinner)

I'm ready to cut a deal with the New Misogynists: I will happily stop calling myself a "feminist" if they will agree to accord me the same rights and responsibilities of an XY adult. Because seriously, I'm not wedded to "feminism." I'm just a random XX person who wants to do her their own thing, and not be limited by what other people judge to be my "proper place." Can we come to a cordial agreement that, when we meet in a public or professional sphere, we politely ignore our respective genitalia and simply interact as two individuals united by our common humanity? Can we judge one another by the quality of our characters and not the configuration of our chromosomes?

Man, that would be sweet, because truth be told, I want to run away from some of "those feminists" as much as you do. And just because I read We Hunted the Mammoth, it doesn't follow I am exactly in my element in the comments section. In fact, lately, the moderators have been slamming commenters for failing to meet their own exacting standards of political correctness. Well, it's their party, they can do what they want to, but...

Some of the gals over there remind me why I avoided "feminism" for years and years (until the New Misogynists forced my hand).

Back in the late eighties, I returned from a couple of years teaching in a women's college in Al Hasa, Saudi Arabia, a region that Saudis themselves consider "the sticks." It was like escaping a minimum-security, air-conditioned prison. I moved to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to explore a different professional direction (lateral, of course, since my life has been one long series of entry-level positions). 

Glenwood Springs is a beautiful resort town in the foothills of the Rockies and it was close to where my mother was living. However, not being an "outdoorsy" type, I was frustrated by the lack of social opportunities. In an effort to meet other women of similar age and background, I joined the local chapter of NOW (National Organization for Women).

I lasted approximately two months. I wasn't exactly booted out, but I wasn't made to feel welcome, either. See, I had assumed I was a feminist, but I quickly learned that I wasn't the right kind of feminist.

Here's how it happened. The Gulf War had just started. In response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait, the United States was stationing troops in Saudi Arabia. Suddenly there was a great deal of interest in the Gulf. Because I had just returned from the region, the ladies of NOW invited me to speak about my impressions of what life was like for Saudi women. Of course, I accepted. I thought it was the perfect opportunity to become recognized as part of the organization. Besides, who doesn't like to talk about their travels? I had slides and everything!

I spent hours preparing a brief but informative talk about what goes on behind the veil of the Kingdom. I pulled together what I thought was an interesting, original take on what happens when a person is immersed in a very foreign culture. I explained what my preconceived notions had been, and how they had been challenged by the reality of my experience.

I don't remember everything I shared, but I do recall explaining how surprised I had been when I realized that, contrary to envying my free-wheeling life as a single western woman, the female Saudi students and faculty actually pitied me. I could drive? Big deal! They had drivers. I was allowed to work? Too bad! They didn't have to work. I wasn't married? What kind of deadbeat dad neglected to secure his daughter's future?

By traditional Saudi standards, I was a complete washout as a woman: no gold, no sons, no family to support me, just an itinerant worker one level up from their Sri Lankan maids at home. Plus, I was kind of dirty -- not physically, of course, but in a spiritual sense. Girls would carefully sweep aside their skirts when I approached, lest I contaminate them. It was a humbling experience to have a student bolt from the room to perform ritual ablutions because I had inadvertently touched her. They openly speculated I was no virgin, despite my never-married state, and I could hardly deny that. In short, I was regarded as an object of some contempt. Teaching English under these conditions was a challenge. Fortunately, the only English they wanted or needed to learn was what they could use on their next shopping trip to London. I supplemented the heavily censored textbooks with heavily censored fashion magazines.

The experience was a real eye-opener for me, and fundamentally changed my perception of my status as a privileged, liberated woman. I realized how arrogant I had been.

Then I wound up my presentation by speaking in favor of the U.S. intervention in Kuwait, which I supported. It seemed evident to me that when a sovereign nation is invaded, the rest of the world has an obligation to come to its defense. That was not the line this particular crowd of feminists wanted to hear.

I stumbled off the podium to a tepid trickle of applause. During the coffee break, everyone studiously avoided me, although I seem to recall one woman murmuring in passing that my talk had been rather "disappointing." 

That, and a number of similar experiences since, has taught me that as much as I ally myself with card-carrying feminists in the cause of gender equality, I am unlikely to find my social needs met by that community. Because I'm not very interested in "feminism." I am bored to death by feminist theory (the boys over at CAFE have read more feminist literature than I have). I don't really understand what "women's studies" even means as an academic discipline. I took a "Psychology of Women" class as a freshman, back in the day when lesbianism was a form of political expression and Ted Hughes was a brute who had pushed his wife's head into an oven, and I thought the instructor was positively cracked.

I don't know that I have any close friends who self-identify as "feminists" although they sure know (and resent) sexual discrimination when they experience it. Most of my friends are working stiffs like I am, trying to keep their heads (and their families) above water. Some of them are atheists, some of them are believers; some of them are straight, some are queer; some are traditional, some are boundary-pushers; most of them are parents, a few are without issue. The only thread of commonality is that they are all decent people who care about the well-being of their fellow (wo)man and can laugh at the absurdities of life.

Truth be told, I'd rather spend an afternoon with an anti-feminist like "Geisha Kate," Mark Minter's wife, than half the commentators on We Hunted the Mammoth. At least (judging by her comments here) she seems like a pleasant person. The fact that we probably vehemently disagree about everything under the sun doesn't mean we couldn't enjoy a coffee now and then. And, who knows, maybe I could correct the "errors" in her thinking while we got our nails done.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Cultural Appropriation

Sometimes being a white, middle class feminist can be such a headache, you know? Having to identify and own one's privilege. Constantly monitoring one's speech and thoughts to ensure one isn't infringing on other people's sensibilities. Analyzing everything one thinks, says, produces, or consumes unto death. No wonder people hate feminism: It's bloody hard work if you're doing it right. (And I'm the first to admit my "feminism" is about as haphazard as my housecleaning, but then, I've never subscribed to the old adage "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing right.")

I note Jezebel was having a go at Katy Perry today. I almost didn't read it because I could not care less about Katy Perry (or Miley Cyrus or the Kardashian sisters or any other piece of celebrity eye-candy who is now being shamed for the crime of "cultural appropriation.") Leave it to Jezebel to always land on the most trivial tips of pretty big icebergs and chip away with 400 words of sheer snark. But those five wasted minutes that I will never get back did get me to pondering.

When it comes to members of a dominant culture adopting behaviors of a marginalized culture, where is the line drawn between respectfully borrowing (or even paying homage) and stealing or exploiting?

Last month I saw Cher on her "Dressed to Kill" tour. The stadium was packed. The audience (mostly older women like myself) were ecstatic.  Of course Cher didn't sing anything new: She gave her audience exactly what they had paid for by not only recycling her hit list, but also her original wardrobe. In other words, this spectacle -- like Cher's career itself -- was as much about her clothes as it was about her songs. And she still looked fabulous in those gorgeous Bob Mackie numbers, at least as far as I could tell from my precarious perch in the nose-bleed section.

Then she did that number "Half Breed." And all I could wish is that she hadn't.

It wasn't that her seventy year old thighs weren't as toned and tawny as ever; it was her choice of resurrecting this particular number that really gave away her age. I shared my dismay with my friends, and one of them said, "She is part Native American, so she has the right!" "She's part Armenian," I snapped. I could tell they thought I was just being a deliberate pain, so I shut up.

But the incident reminded me how much our mores have changed in the past forty years, at least regarding the appropriation of First Nation cultural symbols.

Some years ago a boyfriend gave me a bone necklace of the sort once worn by Sioux warriors. It was a thing of beauty, and unusual, and I thought I would enjoy wearing it. But I never could bring myself to do so; it just seemed wrong. I finally gave the necklace away to my stepson, who has Native American ancestry. He probably won't wear it either, but he appreciated its significance.

I haven't always been that sensitive. Back in the seventies, when I was in Afghanistan, I perplexed my Afghan hosts by wanting to buy a burka. None of the women in this middle class, urban family wore one. Of course, I couldn't tell them that the real reason I wanted it was so that I would always have a cheap, easy Halloween costume. Nevertheless, they knew the value of this garment was in the way it represented a cultural practice westerners find abhorrent, and they were rightfully offended, and politely declined to help me find a burka shop.

Why the burqa is part of Britain
Not an appropriate Halloween costume.

My partner wants to throw a "Bollywood" party, and have all the guests wear saris and bindis. It could be a lot of fun, but how will it make the Indian caterers feel? (Actually, they might find the sight as hilarious as my Turkish friends find middle aged American women belly-dancing in Greek restaurants.)

Anyway, this essay by Jarune Uwujaren has at least helped me frame the question for myself, and that's a start. The bottom line is, as always: Be polite, considerate, acknowledge the humanity of everyone around you, and examine your own motives fearlessly and honestly. I reckon that's the best that any of us can do: Try to be decent human beings. And you don't even need feminism for that.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Dear Mr. Barnes...

So over at A Voice For Men, Jack Barnes critiqued Matt Forney's latest and most desperate attempt to garner attention, an ode to spanking in order to control women.  I will try to summarize it here as MRAs are notably long-winded, but the gist of it is that Forney is too EASY on women.  By proposing that women's bad behavior must be controlled by men (by physical discipline), he is actually letting women off the hook. And I think Mr. Barnes has an important point. 

Barnes starts by explaining that "strict gender roles, once necessary for human survival" restricted both men and women, but that it was modern women who "chose to case [these] aside... However, they have been reluctant to accept the responsibilities that come with being a fully realized and capable adult."

I myself have come across a few entitled princesses who thought that they should be able to enjoy both "equality" and the dubious benefits of "chivalry."  Whether they are representative of most self-identified "feminists" I doubt.  

I am a never-married woman nearly sixty who has been fully self-supporting since the age of twenty. I may have occasionally been "reluctant to accept the responsibilities," but I had little alternative. Although I often longed to be "equally yoked" to a caring spouse, the men who wanted to marry me were not capable or willing to pull their share of the freight. I put one boyfriend through college, another through truck-driving school, hoping they would prove to be the "responsible spouse" I longed for, but when, after considerable financial and emotional investment, neither came through, I had to cut them off and walk away, not because I didn't care about them, but because my resources were limited: it was literally a matter of survival.  But maybe I've just been unusually unlucky or inept at husband-hunting? I don't shirk responsibility for my own poor choices here, just telling you very frankly what the reality of my life has been.

The fact is, at the time, I loved each of these men, and wanted nothing more than to contribute to their happiness and success. That they turned out to be poor investments of my money and energy does not change that reality. I take some comfort in knowing that in my long, checkered history of pair-bonding attempts, I have at least never left any man worse off for having known me. Yeah, I may be a "snowflake" but I don't think my experience makes me particularly "special."

"Despite what feminists would have you believe, men are, in fact, human beings and deserve to be treated as such."

Mr. Barnes, you have a very warped perception of what a feminist is. 

Mr. Barnes, I am a "feminist" who strongly supports, among other MRM causes, fathers' rights, and the protection of boys and incarcerated men from sexual assault or other forms of violence. I hate those commercials and sit-coms that portray men as bumbling idiots as much as you do. I rail against an economy and a military industrial complex that treats working-class males as cannon fodder. I have no beef with couples who choose to organize their personal lives according to "traditional" gender roles either. I do not believe in the inherent superiority of either gender.

Here's the deal with Men's Rights Activists like you, Mr. Barnes. You simply do not understand what (mainstream) "feminism" is. If you did, you would see that our goals are very much aligned. It's ridiculous for you to allow your "movement" to be infiltrated with misogynists. You complain that Matt Forney's ideas are immoral and loathsome, and I agree. What are you doing to disavow those same loathsome and immoral ideas from being broadcast by A Voice For Men?

"Women need to grow up. They are adults, which means they and they alone are responsible for themselves."

I couldn't agree more.

"Forney’s belief that it is a man’s responsibility to shape and mold an adult woman into behaving like an adult is a burden that no man should have placed on him. It is a burden that any intelligent man would swiftly reject along with the woman who doesn’t know how to behave."

I absolutely agree.

"Let’s try the radical notion that women are adults... Let’s expect women to behave as adults, and when they don’t, we find another woman to spend time with."

Yes, yes, let's!

So remind me... What is it, exactly, that we're fighting about?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Too Funny Not to Share

If you haven't seen the new website of "Femgoddess" Desiree Meyers-Liebowitz, it isn't for her lack of self-promotion on twitter.   She only has one post up so far, but it's designed to create quite a stir in the PUA community:  "The Five Ugliest Pickup Artists".  It's a much funnier (and much meaner) riposte to the Return of Kings post that started me on my own road to ruin over a year ago.

My initial question was, Who exactly is Desiree sending up?  Because she seems to be making as much fun of the "fat acceptance movement" and the "BBW" scene as she is of the New Misogynists.  In other words, I was pretty skeptical that Desiree Meyers-Liebowitz was the unapologetic cuckolding feminist fatty that she claimed to be.

I had no idea who the creator could be of (what I initially assumed was) this brilliant caricature, or even his/her gender.  For if "The Five Ugliest Pickup Artists" she eviscerates in her post represent the average woman's worst nightmare, Desiree's online persona is custom-built to be the average manospherean's fever dream of what a "feminist" is:  A "gender studies" major, she has scored herself a "beta" lawyer husband "Harold" who, when not busying himself in the kitchen, is rubbing her feet and, indeed, embracing every inch of her gloriously wanton, gluttonous self, while she lolls on the couch stuffing herself with cheetos and entertaining a stream of eager swains.

Then I did a little "research" (that is, idle stalking googling) and I learned that Desiree has been lurking in the manosphere for years, even posting on Il Douche's Forum in 2012 (back before he decreed that vaginas defiled the Inner Sanctum*).  So it appears that she has either been "trolling" these guys for quite a while, or else Desiree Meyers Liebowitz really is "for real."

It doesn't matter either way, I guess.  My only question for Desiree at this point is, What took you so long?  And what will you post next?
* And before he thought to explicitly exclude "homos" or even ban his own members if they stooped to respond to a female commenter who had somehow slipped through security.  Are there no lengths to which this freak won't go to maintain "ritual purity?"

Friday, October 4, 2013

Feminist English Teachers!

Over at the Men's Rights Subreddit this morning, a high school student is plaintively soliciting help in dealing with his English teacher who is "very feminist."  Of course, because I am an English teacher (who also happens to be "very feminist"), this catches my attention.

The poster makes a number of claims I find quite improbable unusual:  first, that the boys are "often served detentions for being too quiet during class."  While I can imagine disciplining students for being disruptive, I've never heard of a teacher forcefully requiring students to speak in class -- although I have (gently) reprimanded students for sleeping in class.

He goes on to complain that "she started reading us articles about how men are rape creatures and are useless other than to the extent of conception [sic]."   When he complained, he was treated to another unjust detention.

BTW, in my world, spending time outside of class with students is more punitive for me than it is for them.  And another BTW, why is the teacher "reading" to her students?  Even in high school, aren't the students capable of reading for themselves?  But I digress...

What's becoming apparent to me is that this English teacher has her work cut out for her.

His third complaint is that "Every single paper that is submitted by the guys are usually barely passing [sic]."   That the male students have previously enjoyed extremely high GPAs clearly proves her anti-male gender bias.

The subsequent commentators have been predictably sympathetic ("the bitch!").  Helpful suggestions include telling the poster to record classes on his cell phone in order to provide "evidence" against the teacher.  That may or may not be permitted by school policy, but it makes sense.  I myself would love to hear what the instructor actually said, and in what context she conveyed the idea men were only sources of genetic material.  Did he abruptly wake up while she was quoting the author of some dystopian or radical feminist fantasy?  Or was he still dreaming when he "heard" her say that?  Of course, the third alternative, that she actually said and meant what he attributes to her, is possible too (possible, but not very damn likely).  In which case, and it can be proven, her head will roll...

Another commentator warned that, if the student approached administration, he not attribute the conflict to the instructor's being "a feminist... who hates men." Good advice.

That I have a liberal bias is manifest, and I freely cop to it in class.  When students ask me what I think about a current event, for example, I will tell them (and always with the proviso, "This is my opinion").  As a teacher, I do consider the extent my personal biases affect my students, especially in choosing topics to read and write about.  Sometimes, I frankly enjoy the authority to require students to think about and discuss topics I am interested in.  On the other hand, I use caution with material that might be interpreted as "male bashing" or derogatory about non-western cultures (my own culture I can freely disparage).  I try very hard to avoid writing prompts that are likely to elicit views that will upset me, too, because (1) I really, really don't want to dislike my students (after all, we're stuck with each for a whole quarter), and (2) marking papers is disagreeable enough a task without getting angry or sad about the content of those papers.  As you can imagine, just identifying "appropriate" topics can be a big part of my planning process.  Then add to that the chore of finding topics that are sufficiently "interesting" to inspire an "emerging adult" to write AND a mid-life adult to read and you can see why it is an ongoing challenge.

Anyway, next week I'm going to show them the recent documentary "Seeking Asian Female," and have them write about the mail order bride industry.  Because many of my students are from countries that are the source of many "mail order brides" (China, Vietnam, Ukraine), this could be a highly sensitive topic.

Getting back to class participation:  I have to constantly curb myself from calling on male students more than female students.  If there is a bias in that regard, it is toward the boys, mainly because they tend to be more assertive and fearless in expressing opinions.  It's rare for me to have a female student who challenges me directly or who "hogs" class attention.  What is more problematical for me are students that want to express their opinions without having done the relevant reading...