Archive | patriarchy RSS feed for this section

Explaining the Patriarchy

30 Nov

In the constellation of things that are hard to explain, patriarchy falls somewhere in between “quantum mechanics” and “proper semicolon use.” Although I haven’t found a magic patriarchy-explaining bullet just yet, I have found a magic bullet explaining the experience of “waking up” to it in the form of one of my Very Favorite Comics, Sinfest:

Click here to see it all embiggened and in its natural habitat.

If you saw the move “The Matrix” when you were young and impressionable, like I did, and you’re also one of the “lucky” people who’s been awakened to the wonderful world of profound injustice in one way or another, this comic probably resonates with you.

The plain definition of patriarchy is a system run by and for men, but in practice it’s so much more than that – it encompasses sexism, racism, ableism, and too many other -isms to count. There are Feminism 101 blogs that do an adequate job of explaining some of the basics, but if you really want to jump in feet first you should probably go check out I Blame the Patriarchy.

If you want a well-organized and pocket-sized approach to learning about patriarchy, you should probably read “The Dialectic of Sex” by Shulamith Firestone. This book pretty much changed my life.

If you have found a good way to explain patriarchy to the Uninitiated, please do let me know in the comments.

Wife-Beaters Welcome!

12 Oct

Topeka, Kansas is now officially the best place in the U.S. to beat your wife. The city council decided to repeal the local law that makes domestic violence a crime there by a vote of 7 to 3. Thanks guys! Their reasoning is not that they hate women, but that it’s just too darn expensive to prosecute the hordes of wife-beaters (and girlfriend-beaters, and various other beaters) out there, and therefore easier to decriminalize domestic violence.

One of the damn funniest legal writers out there, Elie Mystal, has a commendable piece on the Above the Law blog:

The Topeka City Council] wouldn’t have repealed misdemeanor ordinances about robbery. The(y) wouldn’t have decriminalized drugs. They wouldn’t have messed around with funding the prosecution of something that they really cared about.

But women, and the beating thereof? Oh, let’s make a political point about fiscal responsibility with that. They would have seen the problems with headlines claiming Topeka was a drug haven or the storefront robbery capital of the world. But when they contemplated becoming Disneyland for wife-beaters, they were cool with it.(via)

I know a lot of people who think of themselves as “socially liberal, but fiscally conservative,” and here’s an example of of that philosophy failing to the utmost. It’s hard to fathom anyone thinking, “Ehhh, what’s a few bruised ladies in comparison to all that moolah?!” but that’s exactly what the Topeka City Council (elected officials, respected pillars of society) thought when they decriminalized domestic violence.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how disgusted are you? Tell me what you think in the comments.

Fat dudes up, fat chicks down

13 Sep

Commenters! This week’s unicorn award for best comment goes to… every last one o’ ya! Why? Because y’all made me think Very Hard Thoughts on a Sunday.

Here is a smattering of observations from readers:

I feel more stigma now for my weight than anything I wear. 

… society continues to undermine women, despite our (relatively) newfound career freedom, by severely objectifying our bodies – fatness being the ultimate stigma.

But of course everyone knows that only women who are capable of keeping their bodies in check are capable of anything beyond the most rudimentary tasks. If you can’t keep yourself thin, you can’t do anything, can you? -Nanifay

Turns out, this issue has ACTUAL SCIENCE behind it. Did you know, for example, that overweight women earn less, while overweight men earn more? How is that fair? Answer: It isn’t. No dice if you’re “average weight,” either – you have to be RAIL THIN (25 pounds below the median, to be precise) in order to reap the salary benefits. If I lost 25 pounds, I would no longer be able to support the weight of my own head. But hey, I’d make an extra $16K!

And lest we forget, it’s not just women’s weight that is policed by the patriarchy Gestapo, it’s also our faces:

I recently learned that not wearing make-up was making people thinking of me as less professional. Sad face. – Kate Dino

Sadface indeed. We all know that having wrinkles, acne, uneven skin tone, flat eyelashes or mussed-up hair is directly correlational to job performance. AMIRITE, ladies? Who here finds it hard to think when her lipstick shade is a bit off? Can I get a hell yeah? Ugh.

Meanwhile, there are definite benefits to looking the part (besides being seen as professional and getting paid more):

Most of my life I’ve tried to appear as anonymous as possible, probably following the example of my Communist Dad who thought you should dress for rallies and demonstrations in such a way as to give you time to dodge a blow while the cop was momentarily unsure if you were a dirty Red or a respectable bystander. – John Burke

Smart thinking, those Red Diaper babies. I get pulled over way less now that I have brown hair instead of pink. A friend of mine quipped that when she quit driving a hippie car, and started strapping a baby in the back, she was harassed a heckuva lot less by the coppers. Although it’s not surprising, it’s still kind of shocking. “Racial profiling” is in the news a lot, but that’s clearly not the only kind of profiling that goes on.

Thanks for being a bunch of smartiepants, guys! And keep those comments coming – I get a wonderful surge of a feeling I can only describe as “validation as a human being” every time someone comments.*

*Unless you are a crazy person who is threatening me ‘cuz darnit, who told ladies they could have opinions anyway?! Then I just mock your poor grasp on grammatical conventions and picture you drowning in a lake of fire.

Weekend Open Thread: X-Files Edition

23 Jul

Super-late Friday post due to me being pooped earlier. That’s what happens when you get up at 4 a.m., but can’t tear yourself away from the X-Files at night early enough to get a decent night’s sleep.

Yes, that’s right. The X-Files. I never watched the full series before so I’m watching them now in the name of pop culture edumucation. And hoooooboy is there some serious stuff wrong with that show. For one, why does Mulder always drive? But I use my magic patriarchy-filtering, laser-beam shooting eye shields to screen all that out, because Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny are both smokin’.

Ahem. Anyway, to distract you from that disturbing little overshare, here’s some Friday adorableness!

You know the drill, folks! Talk amongst yourselves in the comments, and feel free to scold me on any number of items, including but not limited to how I haven’t gotten to your reader request yet. (Refer to above “pooped” excuse.)

Today’s questions-to-get-you-started are X-Files related:

  • What’s your guilty pop-culture pleasure? I have too many to list. It’s truly horrifying. I’ll make a list soon so you can feel superior, I promise.
  • What’s your guilty “harm-reduction/patriarchy-indulgence” thing? You know what I mean – like wearing makeup/shaving your legs/walking around in stilettos or getting strapping young men to help you move heavy things. Or if you’re a straight man, do you do anything that goes against your nature to conform to society’s expectation of dudeliness?

Expound in the comments, dearies. Dooo eeet! The unicorn award goes to the bestest comment of the weekend. What’s the unicorn award, you ask? There’s only one way to find out.

Klondike responds!

21 Jul
The ice-cream purveyors at Klondike/Unilever have responded to my complaint about their heinous heinous ads! Read below:
—–

Hello MS. SARAH _____,

Thank you for writing to us.

We do apologize for the experience you reported concerning Klondike Commercials.

Unilever Ice Cream markets its various brands in ways that are meant to entertain and engage our target audience. It was only intended to be humorous.

We certainly do not wish to offend anyone. You may be interested to know that all of our commercials and advertisements are pre-tested and various techniques are used to evaluate consumer reactions. Based on the results of our pre-testing procedures, the presentations are chosen for their majority appeal. Please let us assure you that your comments are extremely important to us in evaluating the success of our commercials and advertisements.

We will certainly forward your comments to the Marketing staff. Consumer comments are very important and evaluated on a regular basis.

Sincerely,

Your friends at Klondike

– 
More to come on this later. But feel free to poke some holes in their pre-testing procedures with their target audience. I see no way that these ads wouldn’t offend most demographics – even the darling demographic of straight white men dislike being portrayed as oafish.

Also: Note their use of an honorific!

Vaginas are the center of the world!

20 Jul

Continuing on yesterday’s theme of terrifying advertisements, today I bring you more douchebaggery (no, literally!) via the new Summer’s Eve ad campaign:

I had no idea vaginas had babies ALL BY THEMSELVES! Amazing, I say, simply incredible! Also? Douching is pretty much the opposite of taking care of your “cradle of civilization.” No self-respecting medical professional would ever recommend anyone do such a weird-ass thing to their privates.

Buuuut in a strictly academic sense, at least they’re taking a new approach to helping women get uterine and yeast infections. Just try cradling a civilization after a bout with pelvic inflammatory disease! I dare ya.

Video via Feministe and Adrants.

Weekend open thread: Google Plus! and other news

15 Jul
Just because Rebecca Black is a fan of Friday doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be, too. Everyone loves a good Friday (even if Friday isn’t your Friday, and you don’t celebrate Good Friday). And in this new tradition of copping out of having to write a real post by opening the floor up to y’all, it’s time for a weekend open thread!
Today’s topic is Google+! Mostly ‘cuz I want you to be my pal on there. It’s boring without interesting people to talk to. You can find me by looking up adventuresinmediocrity@gmail.com. I think. I’m still a little fuzzy on the details. If you need an invitation I’ll give you one. Oh yeah, and here’s a Google Plus-themed picture to replace the usual adorable animal one (adorable animals to return next week):

From someecards.com

ANYway. If you’re stuck for things to talk about, here are some starter questions:
  • Are you a social networking junkie? Why/why not? If you are, feel free to expound about the Google+ thing. If not, you’re probably not going to comment anyway, amiright?
  • Does your online community differ significantly from your real-world community? (my answer is below!) How? Why do you think that is?
  • Why won’t Google+ make it so we can merge accounts? (rhetorical, although feel free to answer if you’re a Google developer)
  • Do you ever worry that Google is going to one day grow spindly little arms with spikes on the ends and then implant itself in your brain, controlling your every move and thought, turning you and millions of others into little Google-borg-bots?
  • Are some social networks more “safe spaces” (by this I mean prejudice/patriarchy/violent threat-free, or at least as much as possible) than others? Which ones?
I know that my online social network differs a whole lot from the real-world one, mainly because I know for a fact that most of you reader-types are feminists and “get” the feminist-y (and sociologicalish) stuff I write about on here (the rest of it is just drek. I mean really.). In the real world, I may not find out a friend’s thoughts on feminism – or any other ism – until the friendship is well-developed – which is fine. Just different. Both realms serve their purposes quite well – without real world interaction I’d go bonkers. But without an online community of whip-smart people like you, I’d probably think the whole world was out to get me and never leave the house.

Men don’t let men eat vegetables

11 May

What could be manlier than an irrational hatred of dark leafies? A steady diet of beer and prepackaged fatty foods, that’s what! Nothing says “macho” like high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease. Watch and cringe:

Just shows to go ya, not even menfolk are immune to the detrimental effects of the patriarchy. I’m sure either one of my vegetarian/vegan brothers could tell you a story or two (or six) of having their manly street cred called into question due to their love of fruits, vegetables and whole grains.

High-maintenance

3 May

“High-maintenance” is often used to describe women we don’t like, but does anyone really know what it means? The phrase “high-maintenance,” like the word “slut” is just another ill-defined insult hurled at women who don’t conform enough, or conform too much, to society’s idealized expectations of femininity. So last time I heard it, I looked it up – Webster’s is no use, so here’s what trusty old Urban Dictionary has to say:

1. Requiring a lot of attention. When describing a person, high-maintenance usually means that the individual is emotionally needy or prone to over-dramatizing a situation to gain attention

2. A person who has expensive taste (re. clothing, restaurants, etc.). This person is never comfortable because he/she is constantly concerned about his/her appearance.

At first, it seems weird that the phrase has two completely different meanings, until you take the time to think about what else the phrase is used to describe. What else can be called high-maintenance? Swimming pools. Layered haircuts. Silk clothing. Fancy cars. Orchids. Conversely, take a peek at what we describe as low-maintenance: Rock gardens. Cotton-poly blends. Cacti. What do these things have in common? They’re all things. So what do we call high-maintenance? Things, and women. ‘Cuz women are things! Get it? Ahhhaahaha. Backslaps all around!

Let’s take the two definitions in order, shall we? The first is a derogatory label for women who dare to ask for emotional support from the people around them. The second is a derogatory label for women who dare to take the time they need in order to conform to society’s expectations of them. By caring about her appearance – as society tells her she must if she is to be worthy of love or even leaving the house – she is punished by being called high-maintenance, shallow, superficial, flippant. But try not caring about your appearance for a sec – go ahead, try it! Stop shaving your legs, wearing makeup, and brushing your hair. See how long you stay employed, how long you keep your boyfriend, how long it takes before your girlfriends start talking about how you’ve let yourself go when you’re not around.

High-maintenance is just another empty phrase thrown around to punish women who falter while walking that razor-thin line of magically conforming to impossible standards of beauty while making it look easy breezy cover girl. Women who slink quietly out of bed to shower and put on makeup and then slink quietly back into bed – so long as they’re not caught – need not worry about being labelled high-maintenance. It’s those who dare to sleep in, and then make their poor sops of male companions wait more than ten minutes while perfecting that foundation and blowout, that need to worry. Or those that, after a rough day at work, occasionally require a few moments of quiet alone time before tending to the passel of squalling brats.

The rub is that, with all things patriarchy, you can’t win. Let your striving show, and you’re a high-maintenance shrew. Don’t strive, and you’re ugly and unlovable, or worse – a feminist.

Any of you readers been called high-maintenance before? I certainly have. One incident comes to mind in particular, when a friend of mine told me that if he didn’t already know me, he probably wouldn’t try to talk to me because I looked “high-maintenance.” I had no idea what he was talking about, and, to some extent, still don’t. Tell your stories in the comments, eh?

To have and to hold: The hidden meaning of last names

11 Apr
Cool surname map courtesy of National Geographic.

“Because I love him.”

This is the main reason most straight women give when they agree to take their husband’s or fiance’s last names. By that logic, the following must also be true:

  • Women who don’t take their husband’s last names don’t love their husbands; and
  • Since men don’t take their wives’ last names, men don’t love their wives.

Of course, some men DO love their wives (although one would never guess from The Lockhorns,) so clearly, that reason is a load of horsepoop. So what other possible reasons could there be for women trading in their names in exchange for a “Mrs.”?

“I want to have the same last name as my children.”

Image courtesy some lame stock image service. Please
note the wedding ring. If you spend any amount of time
working with stock art, you’ll soon notice the only
time women’s hands are pictured with wedding rings are
when the image clearly has something to do with weddings
or motherhood. Interesting, no?

This is quite easily solved by just giving your children your last name. Easy, peasy. Did you know that you can, in fact, give your children whatever last name you damn well please? There’s no law stating that one or both parents must share a last name with a child. You could name your kid “Steve Lil’Hokomoke” if you so chose, or “Belinda Cheesedoodleface,” even if your last name is Jones and your husband’s last name is Johnson. Not particularly kind, but completely legal. Say your or your husband’s last name was “Cheesedoodleface” — is a name so ripe for schoolyard-teasing really one you want to pass on?

So if last names have nothing to do with love or the law, then what gives? Power and patriarchy. Don’t believe me? Spend some time reading about family structure and patrilineality. The easiest way to explain patrilineage is that any society has to figure out a system for passing on property, how its children will be socialized, etc. Most societies have chosen patrilineality – this means that the property is passed from father to son, women and their children take on their husband’s last names, leave their families of origin to join their husband’s families and raise their kids according to the customs and traditions of the father’s family of origin.

In societies where patrilineality includes women (and often, young girls) leaving their family of origin to live with and care for their husband’s family of origin, this leads to yet-further devaluation of women and girl children – the most well-known example is probably female filicide in China and India.

Patrilineality is a big part of patriarchy – which basically means “a system run by males, not females,” wherein males are the heads of the household, have authority over women and children, and dominate the government and social and cultural systems. The United States and most countries/societies existing today are patriarchal systems, and this is the primary reason — not love, not money, not law — why women are born with their father’s last names,  trade them for their husbands’ names when they get married, and give their children the husband’s last name instead of theirs.

But before you get all panicky, readers: Just because you have your hubbie’s last name doesn’t mean you’re a Bad Person perpetrating an Evil Conspiracy. The last name gambit is just one of many manifestations of the patriarchal superstructure undergirding our everyday lives – from seemingly innocuous activities like wearing makeup and heels to more insidious things like eating disorders, rape, wage discrimination and domestic violence. We all participate in patriarchy, whether we know it, or like it, or not. The best we can do is become aware of, and make conscious choices about, our participation. We should be able to assert a modicum of control over how – and how much – we kowtow to convention, although in an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to at all.

Those of you with your hubbie’s last names, how do you feel about it, and were you aware of the history of patrilineage before you got hitched? Lady readers without husbands – do you plan to change your name when you marry? What’s driving that decision? Those of you who aren’t planning to marry, or aren’t legally allowed to marry in your country, how do you approach the last name conundrum? Do you think society’s expectations are different for you, or the same? Boy readers – how do you feel about your wife, or future wife, taking your last name? Please post a comment and tell me your story!

    Follow

    Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

    Join 52 other followers