When I was fourteen or so, I was listening to an American comedian and he said that “America is the only matriarchy in which women feel the need to complain about being oppressed.”
At the time I knew clear nothing about America, or how it was different from Portugal, so the joke went absolutely wide of the mark. But over the years of living here, it keeps coming back to mind at all sorts of times.
Look, I’m not saying that some women didn’t have a terrible time in the US, or that women weren’t discriminated against in the region they grew up in. The US is a massive place both in territory and population. It is possible to come across families whose idea of the relations between the sexes is practically Elizabethan. It is possible to come across towns/areas that are very sure women should be seen and not heard. I’ll point out that these days the first of those are very covert, and the second almost non-existent.
I’ll also point out that in the US, in 37 years, I’ve come across more tyrannical females than males, partly because the leadership and the myth is that women are oppressed (the myth is stuck circa IMAGINARY 1950s) and therefore any man pulling the sh*t women pull, from physical violence to actual “rule with an iron fist by psychological torture” in their families, jobs and circles, would be crucified in the public square.
In fact, it’s gotten so the only men who get away with being abusive/complete assholes are psychopaths who just don’t care and area good at putting a good face on it. (Which yes, means the cases there are are really, really horrific.) And the only women consistently victimized are NICE women, or those so broken they can’t find the door to escape.
But does that stop women bitching, moaning and complaining their heads off? Oh, deary me no. Because the Myth is stuck circa the IMAGINARY 50s, and they want you to know they’ve suffered.
Being a victim is cool. It excuses all your failures, it washes away all your short comings, it gives you permission to be a head-on-fire vindictive bitch and gets you declared Stunningbrave for saying things that will have absolutely no bad consequences.
And I’m sick and tired of it.
Look, I know the past confined women more, okay, but I still think these people have no idea and would have melted growing up in Portugal, which was nowhere near as repressive as most other Latin countries, let alone places like Middle-Eastern countries (excepting Israel.)
And I’m getting tired of what I’d call “Grubbing for oppression in my memories.”
I swear to heck that there isn’t a single SF/F panel I attended where — usually on a tangential point — a woman older than I (five to ten years) doesn’t get up and go “Well, when I was in eighth grade my math teacher told me women aren’t good at math, and I should pursue English” or something like.
I guess this is meant to absolve them from not being physicists. And look, it’s not that women aren’t as good, it’s that most women — as far as we can determine, in countries where people are free to choose — prefer people-related or language-related professions. And you know what? There’s nothing wrong with that, and we don’t need oppression to explain it. There are several evolutionary reasons we can guess at, and others. Again, no “OPPRESSION” necessary.
For the love of mush, my entire schooling (except for the all-girls’ school which was its own form of hell) I got looked at weirdly, and had teachers trying to figure out how I was “cheating” because I out-performed boys. Discouraging comments? Every day. Jokes about women’s mental prowess from complete strangers? check. And yet, I continued in school and pursued an education.
Honestly, I don’t even remember most of the put downs, though one sticks in my mind as hilarious: STEM club. Visiting physicist explains how to solve something. Then calls me, the only girl in the room. I go up front and demonstrate. At which point he says “So, I guess everyone understood.” Because it was assumed I was the lowest common denominator there.
Am I scarred by this? WHY SHOULD I BE? They neither stole from me nor broke my leg. It got as tedious as middle class American women complaining of the oppression of childhood, but you know, you roll your eyes and drive on. I knew that was the assumption of the culture, so why should it bother me? Precisely? I also knew it was false, and proved it routinely, so who cares what idiots thought? (I mean there wasn’t even Facebook, so I couldn’t amuse myself beating them up.)
I’ve always suspected these “harrowing examples of oppression” came from people who were too well off and too well treated to know they were alive.
Which brings me to the latest example, and I won’t name the author, but the thread immediately became infested with SF/F women bragging of overcoming patriarchy (one of them by marrying a woman, because, you know, lesbianism is apparently intentional and an achievement. Rolls eyes. I didn’t tell her some of the girliest girls I knew were lesbians. Never mind.)
The question posed begged it, because it asked, obviously with disapproval/tone of “see how we suffered” how many women had endured charm school/finishing school/coming out.
My first response on the thread was sort of a warning shot, that went unheeded. Something along the lines of “my parents never taught me manners, I had to learn them myself.” But it was half joking (if true.)
And yet they continued. Muh oppression, in being taught the unconscious signals of the upper class went on and on and on.
I get it that women went to this, not young men. Though young men of a certain class were definitely also taught in “How to behave” and it was often a much, much harsher school.
I get they were taught “highly gendered” ways to behave. Most of them were taught this at a time when the sexes dressed differently which also brought on different behaviors (cross your legs at the ankles when wearing skirts. Took me till my thirties to learn that, and I learned it from a casual reference in a book.)
I also get these women are also Odds by and large, or even more non-functional, so they resented and hated this social thing they had to do.
However: mom having married above her class and having no clue how to teach me manners, her contributions being limited to angsting that I had no manners, I had to learn them by myself and mostly as an adult.
I bet you a lot of the things they learned are still useful, and are the sort of things people judge you on before they are even aware they’re judging. The sort of things that get them to go “Oh, she’s a real lady.” Which, FYI still has respect and currency in the world today. Yes, even in the US.
Again, my mom married above her class by a bit. It distorted her whole life, and to an extent my brother’s, mine and even my kids. Because one of mom’s symptoms was fastening onto the idea all her descendants would have degrees, by gum. But in my brother’s and my case, it never occurred to anyone that most people who made it into (then) incredibly competitive colleges had tutors or went to private schools. Because village/public schools were designed explicitly to train peasants.
I don’t think mom ever understood what an herculean task she set us, or how bizarre it was we succeeded through sheer intimidation and fear. You know, she yelled us into college. Or what fishes out of water we were in our classes, sharing no experiences with most of the people. (There were a few of us.) And often lying about our backgrounds, just to be left alone.
And before you say the US doesn’t have that…. OH, dear. You see, MIL had a similar story, only she was an only child and her parents sacrificed everything to send her to those schools and give her a come out. But she still stuck out like a fish out of water, because she couldn’t spend like her friends and hadn’t had their experiences. It showed. Fifty years later, it still showed.
But at least she in theory knew how to behave, which mom never did. (To be fair to mom, I take a bit after her, so she’d probably have rebelled even if she knew. Like the way she intentionally mispronounced things, even though she knew perfectly well how to pronounce them. Shakespeare became Shogspierre, for instance.)
But look, in my attempts to learn how to behave without disgracing myself in public, I often become too shy. Almost all of my social anxiety is traced to that.
And women who got the lessons, and behave according to the old imprinted patterns often breeze in, and do things a certain way, without thinking. Which opens more doors to corporate VP rooms and advancement in the arts than just about anything else.
Seeing a bunch of well-off (At least as children) American women complaining that someone cared enough to try to give them these tools to get ahead in life struck me somewhere between sad and funny. Kind of like if they’d gone up to my mom who grew up barefoot in a slum and started telling her the tragic story of how their shoes were all funny looking, and had weird colors.
Look, I don’t know if the US is a matriarchy. Certainly the overculture is. And as in an out of control matriarchy, women are getting screwed by expectations and their own peers.
However, in law and in every day life, we have more rights and more ability to do stuff than women have had since EVER. And no that’s not some mythical oppression. It’s the result that when life is hard — and it was very hard till this century — men have the advantage of size and strength, and women need protection, which puts them in a position of vassalage.
Going around whining about your oppression or crowing how liberated you’re now, might feel good.
It’s also annoying to anyone who grew up in another country/time.
And frankly it’s one more irritant added to the out-of-control overculture.
We’re now in a position the Marxists are going to lose. We just might lose lose along with them. We lovers of freedom.
And one of the ways we lose is that cultures under stress revert to their basics. And for years y’all and the media that feeds you these illusions have sold the American people on the idea that “Made up 50s” is our base culture. It’s not. American women always had more freedom than the rest of the world.
To keep piling on these pieces of nonsense only makes it more likely that my granddaughters will have to rise through the same kind of low-level sludge that didn’t hold me down, but bored me to tears.
Take your privilege and enjoy it. No one actually expects you to be astro-physicists. (What would we do with all of them?)
ENJOY being women in the freest, most equitable country on Earth. And shut the heck up about your 8th grade math teacher. It just makes you seem like a petulant child.
And we need adult women to help build a free future in which both men and women can reach their potential without stupid expectations.
Be not afraid. And be not whiny either.