Wednesday, January 9, 2008

give anyone enough slack and they'll probably

hang themselves, but you knew that.

The thing about being conditioned to think a certain way is that the earlier and more you were conditioned, the harder it is to uproot those roots (because they're fucking everywhere.)

Sexism is one of those things, for me. I have said in earlier posts that I was taught to be a good little girl. Let's be blunt. I was taught that I was destined to be property, and that the only way to be right and therefore enjoy the protection of my family and society was to shut my yap, pretend to be dumb, and find a good, godly man to manipulate (a message I always thought was oddly contradictory.) When I turned eighteen, my parents took me to church with them so that they could try to find someone to give me to and therefore negate any remaining responsibility to me by handing me off, not that they thought any man was dumb enough to have me. Yes, they told me so. I was a single mother by then.

Any other path and it was within my family's rights and privileges to abandon me and in the privileges of men to beat or rape me to make their point. Yes, this was explicit as well as implicit, though I doubt my mother remembers telling me it. She tends to forget all the relationship advice she gave me, growing up.

Only good little girls get the protection of society, and only pretty little girls who are also good get love. I had a fine, Southern education in that sense. It is my perception that there is great implied violence in the Southern and sexist way of life.

Smile and look pretty, or else.

It has been a long, hard road out of it, and I'm not done yet. By the time I hit puberty, I wanted to be a man so bad I could taste it. I figured that if I had a cock, at least I had a fighting chance. I wanted out of my targeted skin. It has taken me until only about five years ago and two female children to really begin to get comfortable in my shape, which I had spent my entire childhood learning was useless for anything but manipulation and being on the bottom, something that forced my personality against biology, as I understood it. My last girlfriend, for whom I cross-dressed, said I was the most neatly divided person she'd ever dated, nearly perfectly male and female but not androgynous. Put me in male clothes, give me a goatee and I swagger, she said. Put me in a skirt and I sway.

All this means is that I am uber-sensitive to sexism, though it has taken me forever to try and not win by being the biggest pig. Unfortunately for me, I get pigs.

Feminism has been a difficult discipline for me to accept. I am susceptible, for many of the reasons listed above and more, to a separatist doctrine, though I strive to be fair. I am equally susceptible to the more insidious brands of misogyny, which I will uproot in myself if it's the last fucking thing I do.

I tend to specifically buy the idea that you must viciously compete to get ahead, and that a macho type toughness is a necessary component of success. I honestly cannot picture a world without that competition, nor a language unsteeped in violence and power dynamics. I buy the competition because I have seen the competition, not because I like all of it, though I do love a good argument.

I know anecdotal evidence is not considered strong evidence, a claim I'm going to bypass by simply saying that stuff happens all the time without there being a consensus on why it happened and what happened, so all I can give anyone is my impression, as faithfully as I can manage.

The classes on feminism that I have attended have, thus far, upheld the idea that the reform necessary to give women equal rights is a reform that would refuse to treat power, meaning that the question of power would no longer be one that individual or language have to deal with, which I call bullshit on. Both men and women are interested (and should be) in power and authority. There's nothing inherently masculine about power, just as there's nothing inherently feminine about nuturing. When I have asked or talked about competition, with a view toward reform, I was told that it was 'masculine' and faulty (which I have no beef with; the system we love under is demonstrably designed to fuck women over and therefore faulty) and that I'm obviously no feminist, since I'm even questioning this precept, which enrages me.

Intellectually, I know that insisting that women out-man the men is both cruel to women (having been in several situations to compete with macho men, I know how horribly draining it is to have to try and be perfect while under fire, albeit perfectly whatever the competition is rooted in) and only perpetuates the system of sexism. When set up overwhelmingly to fail, women 'fail' (frequently in a fractional way or because the rules have been changed) and then confirm the stereotype the man who set up the competition was seeking to confirm. I also know that women cannot remain in that environment without taking severe personal damage, not because they're weak, but because there is nothing that unites a group of men better than having a clear enemy, which a woman who is willing to compete embodies.

Emotionally, I find the idea of 'you earn your way' attractive, even when I recognize the fallacy in it (the competition is rigged), because I have worked so damn hard getting anywhere, and to insist that the work I have done is suspect because it is not the right kind or because of the admittedly macho underpinning of it makes me feel kinda invalidated. I expect it from men. They don't have any reason to care and don't tend to have any understanding of the things they're engaged in. (Condescending, but I except more out of women because they are the target of so many messages about inferiority and are better positioned to intrinsically understand the vicious nature of it.) Yeah, the system is rigged. Yeah, I have some issues there. None of this has stopped me from stepping into domestic disputes because the cops didn't show/showed an hour later, from shielding women at work, from volunteering to watch people's kids and from jumping the fuck down some guy's throat for being a pig. I am a thorough jumper of throats, but not usually an unethical one. And let's not even talk here about working on the self or what I have gone through to openly write about sexism.

I am really, really uncomfortable with the idea that women don't have to compete, because I think they compete with one another even when there's no men present to 'arbitrate' the competition by being the standard to which we are societally encouraged to apply. As such, Hillary pushes my buttons. Not just because she is the target of the same kind of vicious smear campaigns I know by heart, but also because she seems to know that competition is shitty, but it is the nature of the beast and must be dealt with (sometimes by being a bigger bitch than the next guy; by being more decisive, faster on the draw, first to take advantage of a misstep and last to leave the field. All these qualities only leave you open to more cruelty, but then, women never get out of anything intact.) To some degree, I understand her change of mind on Iraq and the war, though I deplore it and on health care, though it makes me want to give her a good shake.

Come on, Hill, you know better.

I think that if she won, in general, we might see her doing things that we like, because sometimes women have to do an end-run to get there and change things from the top. Bush has gone about proving you can do so for nearly eight years now. I've done some managing of men, and they insist you be the biggest fucking dog in the room to get there. If you want to change anything, you have to outmaneuver everyone getting there and ram it down their throats, not because you're one of them, but because they won't take a carrot from you. That might mean they liked where they were, and the apparent man union rules prohibit such.

Who knows, I may have just hung myself. I think I gave myself enough rope.

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