Sunday, July 29, 2007

Feminism

Last night I went drinking with a good friend. I drink about once a month, and when I do, I mean business. By business I mean I drink about three or four liquor drinks. Drinking this amount over the course of several hours seems moderate, but I always get drunk. The day after I get drunk I always feel sinful. Feeling sinful is a weird feeling, full of remorse and humility. Sinful is also something that I usually don't feel, although according to Christians, sinning is something I do quite a bit. For starters there's all the sex. I have had quite a bit of sex, and never been married (not even for a day). I swear quite a bit, taking the lord's name in vain with a frequency that makes Jesus a word my daughter correlates with dropping something, or some other such blunder. I shit talk my mom. I think that's it for the ten commandments, although I guess I covet sometimes, but actually I'm going to look up the exact definition right now.

Here's what I got:

1.to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others: to covet another's property.
2.to wish for, esp. eagerly: He won the prize they all coveted.
–verb (used without object)
3.to have an inordinate or wrongful desire.

I guess I do number 2 sometimes. Who decides if the desire is wrong, though? God, I guess. As for the seven deadly sins, I'm not quite sure that I know them all, but am fairly certain that I am guilty of them all at some time or another. Fortunately, my view of god is much different from this view, which leads me not feeling sinful most of the time, except when I drink or drive somewhere I should've ridden my bike.

I have gotten completely off point, though. My point was feminism. My friend and I got into a lengthy argument about an issue that affects an organization that we both belong to. We agreed with the larger issue, being prochoice. We strongly disagreed with the way the organization handled a man's (and here I use man, when really boy would work better, but he is physically an adult) listserve outburst about being antichoice. We censured him in a meeting. Not censor, okay? but censure:

–noun
1.strong or vehement expression of disapproval: The newspapers were unanimous in their censure of the tax proposal.
2.an official reprimand, as by a legislative body of one of its members.
–verb (used with object)
3.to criticize or reproach in a harsh or vehement manner: She is more to be pitied than censured.
–verb (used without object)
4.to give censure, adverse criticism, disapproval, or blame.

I think she thought that we were doing number 4, when I felt we were doing number 1. So she was empathizing with this guy, who said a pretty fucked up thing, because he came to the meeting to take his chops and he apologized. Later he acted like an asshole, and basically said that the method of what he said was incorrect, but not the nature.

We ended up having a long, drunken conversation which touched upon why people are indoctrinated to empathize with men, and not women, even when the man is the person who is in the wrong. This morning I realized, with some depression, that the patriarchy has very effectively counterorganized against feminists. Radical, liberal, and progressive people still have these male eyes to filter the world through, even if they're women. Yes, he made a mistake, some thought, but we can see ourselves there: saying misogynistic things. My reaction to his outburst was very upset. When people are antichoice, I feel like they are dismissing my whole existence, my reality. It is so difficult to be a poor, single parent. It is exhausting to the point of pain, and there is little social support. There is scorn and constant judgment. Forcing someone to live this life discounts my struggle, my choice. The people who were empathizing with this manbaby, did not show signs of empathizing with me. Nobody even acknowledged what I was saying. Some actually sighed, rolled their eyes, and brought up controversial, radical feminists for comparison.

This was the second feat of counterorganization: to discount any anger that a feminist has, and other her. As a feminist, I feel like I have to check my anger, or I will be put in the box, and put away. People won't listen to my arguments, because they think that they understand what's in the box, which is hatred of men (this isn't even close to my analysis). Which pissed me off. I should be able to be angry!

My friend thought that at an all women meeting, the feminists were going to basically bully all the women into a decision she didn't agree with. Which is the third point for patriarchy, to paint feminists as bullies who push their already made up agenda on all women.

Which isn't true. We wanted a meeting to give voice to all the women, to know their experiences in the organization.

Finally, my friend said that she was intimidated by women, and didn't really have many close women friends, because she didn't really like most of them. She hates female competition. Fair enough. There is no prize we're competing for. But, what a misogynistic society we have when radical women in it say things like they don't really like women (with a few exceptions). Which was the final blow to leave me stumbling home defeated.

N, if you are reading this, I'm sorry I pushed you and I would like to have another sober conversation because I love you and I love women and the organization.

5 comments:

test said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hep said...

Hey you, I got behind in reading your blog and just today saw this post.

I was so sad after our fight, mostly because I know we weren't hearing each other. And I was upset while we were even having the fight because while we were disagreeing I was feeling backed into a corner & pushed into a stance that I wasn't even behind fully, and was too drunk to articulate my frustrations. I'm sorry I pushed you too, and I'm sorry we both went home feeling shitty and defeated about the whole thing.

The one thing that I took away was the realization that I think my brand of feminism (because I do consider myself a feminist) allows for me to relate to people's experiences despite their gender. You felt strongly that I was empathizing with the manbaby because of patriarchy & socialization, which I'm not disputing, as it very well may be the case. But I would have felt the same empathy for a woman who'd said something hideously offensive *and then* sat through the hostile meeting where everyone directed anger towards her. That was all. I wasn't empathizing with the statement, how it was said, or how he made it worse later. I'm also not trying to downplay the degree of his wrongheadedness. I was just feeling for the person sitting in that meeting, and I can't *not* feel for the person *because* they are a man(baby). If it had been me who'd said the horrible thing, that meeting would have scared the shit out of me. That's where my empathy was coming from, and I couldn't turn it off just because it was a man.

And I was really sorry that you felt that all the empathy in the room was directed away from you. I don't think that was the case. But I don't want to discount your feelings, or that you felt you weren't heard. I heard you, and I know that other people in the room heard you. And I hope that my other empathies don't cancel out my empathy towards you in your view. Does that make sense?

On anger: Hell yes you can get angry. You have plenty to get angry about. So do I. And we can be angry about different stuff, cause we're different people with different experiences. And that's okay. It's even okay for us to be angry with each other.

And, thinking about it more, I know I said I don't like many women, but remember that I don't like many people. He he he. I do love The People, and I love the organization, with all the flaws both those groups have.

And you and I can fight until the cows come home; you're family and I love you. You'd have to walk up to me and set me on fire to get me to stop.

~hep

ETA: It posted my comment under the name "test," so I deleted it and tried again. Now it's working right.

Tiny Tyranny said...

I think that anyone can be a feminist and feel empathy for men. I do, and I feel solidarity with them as well. That's why I am in an organization that includes them, but am trying to change that it is dominated by them.

To me, the problems are societal. It is common for people to see a situation through the eyes of a man, in this case through the eyes of someone attacking women's rights.

I think that a lot of people in the group were aligning with him on the listserve. They were basically saying, I think we should let this go, and here are my thoughts (which were that he said he was sorry, so let's not make a big deal etc.). Those two things are contradictory and paternalistic. Basically saying what the right thought is and trying to close debate. The people who did this were men, and this is what I was referring to.

I do think you should have an opinion. What I was really sad about was that you didn't want to go to a meeting of women, because you don't like them. And that you seemed to think that we would say what the "right" view is. This is not what happened. This is not what feminism is about. I am concerned that you (and the rest of the group) don't trust the women. I think that is learned from a misogynistic world.

hep said...

One point I will quibble about, admitedly having not re-read the email discussion that occured over the list serve; I feel like I read a lot of posts that were saying the conversation should be moved off the listserve, rather than let go of entirely. I'm sure that other people wanted to let it go entirely, which is inappropriate, because a further conversation did need to happen. But I agree that the infernet was not the right place to have the discussion. Would you agree?

And while I wasn't looking forward to the women's group, I would have attended if I'd been able to. I'm sorry you think I don't trust our women. I do trust the women in our group, with one exception whom I won't name here. Lots of my worry was that the particular woman would dominate the women's group in a way I wouldn't like. And having not been there, I don't know if she did or if she was able to listen to others in the room. I hope she did.

hep said...

Did listen, that is. My final line was unclear.