I was going to write this before the election and I might have mentioned it, but then I got more upset about other stuff, so it never came out. Though I’ll grant you I’ve written about this again. Responsible for this incarnation are Foxfier in comments yesterday and Dr. Helen with her article which got infested by an incarnation of teh stupid in comments.
However, as someone who used to call herself a feminist (before feminism went off the cliff at a run) on the run up to the election I was appalled, disgusted and insulted with the “War on Women” meme ( you might have gathered this, once or twice) but most of all with the bizarre freak show of women who didn’t know well-to-do law student Sandra Fluke getting offended on her behalf for her being called a “slut.” (We’ll leave aside that Limbaugh was making a nomenclature error. The lady wants someone to pay for something associated with her having sex, she’s not a slut. She’s a whore. All that remains is haggling about the price. Sluts do it for joy de vivre.)
This was a bizarre demonstration of the brainless sisterhood, invoked ONLY because she, like these other women, had a vagina.
Even my sensible friends said “well, I can see where he had a point but no one should say those things about women.”
No? WHY NOT?
Do you call men “bastards” in public life? You might not if you don’t swear, and consider it swearing. I confess to episodes of turning the air a deep blue when I get going. (In my defense, English swear words don’t feel like swear words to me. I think the taboo needs to be ingrained in you from earliest years.) But lest some commenter decides I’m extrapolating from me (rolls eyes) I’m also politics addicted. I’m not much for talk radio. I’m not auditory. But I read an awful lot of commentary online, I watch commentary on TV, and I’ve heard male politicians and indeed journalists called everything but a child of G-d.
Can anyone imagine the furor and the president of the United States calling some journalist who got called, oh, a bastard or a sh*t weasel? Can we imagine it being called “disrespect to men” and used to build up the idea of a completely phony war on men? No? Neither can I. (And men have more claims to a psychological war on them. Just yesterday watching a commercial where all the boys in the class are morons and all the girls are soooo brilliant at math, I almost threw something through the computer screen.)
So, why women? You’re going to say “Because women have to be respected.” Really? Why?
And now you’re sitting there staring at the screen and spluttering aren’t you? I’d like to remind you “Because they have to” is not an answer.
This idea that women are fragile, must be respected and must be protected is relatively new. Before that the human idea that anyone weaker was born to be enslaved/mistreated/killed without compunction/ruled. Since most women are weaker than most men (yes, there are exceptions, but not enough to make a difference) women got the short end of the stick throughout history.
This is not because men are particularly evil. They aren’t. They’re human. Women were weaker, so men ruled. Women in turn took it out on infants and the elder in their care. This is still normal in most of the world.
Yes, yes, Christianity had a lot to do with changing the way things were done, and before that Judaism, though not being a messianic proselytizing faith for most of its history, Judaism spread its beliefs on the humanness of women less. And even then, the progress was slow. The married lives of some of the patriarchs read to women as the sort of horror show you see in Islam today. And the Christian married life till very recently doesn’t bear thinking about.
This is because in societies where physical strength is essential for survival, men will always have the upper hand. At least they will barring some kind of bio enhancement that effectively turns women in to men.
There were bits of “equality” throughout history. Greece and Rome were “more equal” than other times and places, but scratch the surface and you find it doesn’t go very deep indeed. Female poetesses and noble females might have had ALMOST the freedoms of males, but the other women were bought and sold like chattel.
Again, remember this is not a male thing. This is a human thing. Get us in a position of pinching, and we ALL take it out on those weaker than us. This is why centralized power is so scary. It makes someone that much more powerful than everyone else, which removes the humanity of those subjected to that power. (As we’re seeing proof daily.) If we’re a particularly kind of sh*tweasel, we convince ourselves – and those we abuse! – that we’re doing it for the greater good.
BUT the idea of women as sacred, fragile, and not to be hurt by word or deed comes from the whole chivalric tradition and the troubadour poets. (In case you think writing and stories can’t change the world.)
By making the ideal of woman perfect and pure (and yes, there were reasons for this, having to do with the structure of feudal society) it ennobled all women a little. While that had not much effect until society became affluent enough and equalitarian enough (mostly due to the US) that every woman could be a “lady”, once that happened, every woman aspired to be treated as a “lady.” You couldn’t say swear words in front of her, and certainly not to her. You would open the door to them. You treated her as both more and less than human. The goddess of the house, the mother of children, the fragile, innocent, blah blah.
Few women lived up to this. A lot of women exploited it. Then came the feminism I remember, you know, the one that wanted to be treated as equals, forget the other stuff.
To me it seemed natural. I knew nothing about history, nor what a great stride forward chivalric rules were (no? Think about it. In a time of enormous and indiscriminate turmoil, every man’s hand against every other’s, it kept the women and children RELATIVELY safe, because it would be “despicable” to treat them otherwise. Yes, the kids might still be killed (but less often, and evolutionarily that’s important.) The mothers might be sent to convents. BUT that was a marked improvement over what would have happened before.) And I came from a long line of “horrible women.” I mean, seriously, by the time I was ten mothers in the village warned their little boys about me (and me not even aware of boys yet) because to marry a woman of my family meant you’d never “be master of your own house” and you’d never “be able to call your soul your own.” (In the spirit of fairness, I DID warn Dan about it. He didn’t sheer off. Mathematician got courage. Or insanity.)
First of all, I haven’t heard (i.e. not in memory of people who were living when I was little) of any ancestress who couldn’t read and write (voluminously, usually.) Second, if any of them didn’t run their own business and usually out-earn their husbands (yes, I’m falling down on the job, but I AM working at it) I also have failed to hear of her. And they all did this while raising broods of children (though the family on dad’s side, to be honest, always ran to low fertility so three or four at most, still), running subsistence farms (everyone did at the time even when that wasn’t their job,) raising livestock, and – usually – helping neighbors, orphan kittens and whoever came to them for help.
I ran down the list of accomplishments that Heinlein thinks most humans should have and I’m sorely deficient. But other than higher math my ancestresses could do all of those. I am, in fact, a pale shadow of them.
So it never occurred to me that being fragile/protected was a good thing. I viewed it as an attempt at infantilizing me and got upset. And it never occurred to me anyone would oppress me for being female. I remembered mom’s snort when a neighbor told her that she just didn’t realize she was oppressed and her answer of “I would just like to see the unlucky fool who would TRY to oppress me.”
Now, I want you to remember I grew up in Portugal. Women in schools at the time were treated as men are in schools in the US now. They were there on presumption of inferior intellect. Getting called on? What is that? And teachers instinctively thought boys must be smarter.
Did that affect me? Well… no. I was aware of the fact that up to the first test I must put up with the assumption I was hen-witted. Once the teacher read that first test I was treated like one of the boys or slightly better. End of discussion.
Note I didn’t whine and scream and say “but I’m a gurl. You have to cut me slack.” I simply out-thought, out-studied and out worked the boys.
Of course, I also got treated as a half-wit because I was massive for my generation of Portuguese females (I finally stopped growing at five seven – for those who know me, yes, I’ve lost about two inches. Eh. Has to do with medical stuff. – and a size 12. I adjusted my diet – as in, lived on espresso and half a toast a day — and got it to a size 7. This was still massive by Portuguese standards. I rarely could find ready-made clothes that fit.) As you know from movies, etc, the tall, large one is always dumb and slow. Eh. That too was not worth fighting until they saw that first test.
But see, I believed in equality and in women being allowed to compete as men did in male fields. I would have been very happy if they hadn’t assumed I was stupid because I was female, but I was willing to prove them wrong (cheerfully and with malice aforethought.)
I think – and here I might be wrong – that was the principle of early feminism.
Oh, my how things have changed. Partly, they’ve changed because frankly most women don’t want to compete in male fields as men. They want to be wafted up to success as a form of bizarre reparations. (I mean, they’re compensating you for what your ancestresses suffered? WHY? Aren’t they men’s ancestresses, too?) They – being human – want in fact unearned perks. Every human (yes, men too) does. If he or she can get it.
But the only way to enforce that is government. And because government is very powerful, it’s now become de rigueur to – instead of competing with men – simply whine and stomp until the regulators come down from on high and give you the other kids’ toys and privileges.
So now you have the bizarre, distorted spectacle of women demanding to be treated as superior to men. No? They want to fill the same positions, do the same jobs, but NOT have to suffer the slings and arrows of everyday life like men do.
And part of this is that, due to political correctness in schools, we’re raising a generation of women for whom males are an alien race. I don’t have the time nor the inclination to give them a full education, but let me give you a few quick hint: 1-Men are not women. They’re wired differently 2-The three musketeers is not an aberration. Some of men’s best friendships start with a massive – and often physical—fight. 3- If you think making the work environment “uncomfortable” with jokes or comments, some of them off color, should you ever be glad you’re not a man. And never try working in an all-male environment. 4- males, particularly in Anglo-Saxonic culture often show affection by calling each other names. I’m not sure if any other culture on Earth could have coined the term “you magnificent bastard” but from a linguist’s point of view I love it. 6- What males do they do very well. They do things women in general can’t do – though a few exceptional ones can, and should be allowed to – mostly the dirty, heavy, dangerous jobs. But also some jobs in science that require an unusual degree of concentration. We’re multitaskers, they’re laser-focused. There’s jobs for both in building civilization.
You want a man’s job? Fine. Do what they do and act like them. I promise you that you will be accepted. (It might take a little more effort today because they’ll assume you got there thorough affirmative action, but be competent and good and they’ll come around.)
And that last point is what I want to call your attention to. This confusion where women not only want to be “just like” – but without the work – but also want to be treated like the belle dame of troubadour songs is poisoning both sides of our society.
Women think it’s their duty somehow to be “just like men” only most of them of course don’t want to be just like men. And meanwhile the environments that NEED men and a masculine spirit are getting feminized and less effective.
And for the love of heaven, spare me the idea that a post-grad student at Georgetown, and one who inserted herself in our national discourse by the force of her sex life, blenches at the word “slut” like a well brought up Regency debutant would. THAT sad show both infantilized every woman in public life, who should now be regarded as a shrinking violet, and INSULTED everyone who happens to have a vagina. I mean, am I now expected to faint at the word “slut”? No? (And let’s not start on the incoherency of the slut walks, which can’t decide if they’re pro or against sluts.) Then what was that all about?
DO you want to bring back the stereotype that women – all women are shrinking fainting violets not well up on the upper story, and therefore must be protected and cajoled?
Then stop acting like it. Stop saying stuff like “every woman who cries rape should be believed, no presumption of innocence on the male’s part, because women must be protected.” Your only defense – the only thing keeping you from the natural law where the weaker get it in the neck IS the law of the land. Shred that at your own risk.
You want equality? You have it. Take your lumps like a man. You’re playing with the big boys now. Every time you demand special treatment, you’re holding back the rest of us who CAN compete.
Will men treat you differently? Of course they will. No man can forget you’re a woman. Evolutionarily this leads to slightly different treatment. BUT it’s both good and bad. Their desire to protect you will both hold you back and keep you from the worst punches in the scrum. At the same time, you’re not acting like a man either, even when you think you are. A lot of the glass ceiling is women not ASKING – let alone demanding – what they’re worth. Low dominance males get treated the same way. Women are designed to do this. We’re the link makers and the peace makers in the tribe. This is because women, being smaller and weaker, couldn’t survive otherwise in competition. You need to remember that to get anywhere in a man’s world. But it’s nobody’s fault, and asking government to step in only creates ANOTHER layer of problems.
The morality and societal benefit of having men in women roles and vice versa is debatable and couldn’t interest me less. I’m concerned only with individual liberty and pursuit of happiness. As far as I’m concerned, you can be all you want to be. Just don’t ask for special privileges.
You’ve come a long way baby. Don’t skitter back.
UPDATE: Gypsies, Tramps and Writers is up over at MGC now.