Women’s oppression

Women’s oppression starts before birth, with sex-selective abortion. At birth, little girls are held close and told how pretty they are; little boys are held further away, and called “Big Strong Boy”. Both sound affirming; but the boys’ conditioning promotes independence, the girls’, dependence. Boys get construction toys, girls get dolls; even an easel comes in pink or blue.

It is not as bad as it has been, but at worst girls are not taught properly about menstruation, so that when they bleed they think they are ill and dirty. Girls’ and women’s sexuality is restrained and controlled by slut shaming while being displayed by their clothes. Maths and sciences are not “girls’ subjects”, girls’ leadership skills are deprecated by words such as “bossy”, girls should be feminine.

Men interrupt women far more than women interrupt men. A man’s anger is approved by both sexes where in the same circumstances a woman’s anger is seen as wrong. Men listen to other men more than to women.

It is “women’s work” to look after children, the disabled and the elderly, and to do housework. Women earn considerably less than men and are under-represented in parliaments and governments, in company boards and senior management. The Manosphere asserts that this is because of life-choices, but minimises how those choices are constrained by the culture. There is no question that a man can have a good career, and children.

This may seem a middle-class analysis. Higher education is unattainable for those chaotically raised underclass children whose parents do not speak to them enough, so that they have not developed proper language skills when starting school. There, women’s subjugation is enforced by physical violence; yet violent men beating women or verbally and emotionally abusing them is throughout the social scale. I asked a man if he beat his wife, and he said, “Only if she needs it”. I asked a woman if her husband hit her, and she said, “Only occasionally”. Two women a week are murdered by partners or ex-partners in Britain.

Much of the culture which seems affirming is oppressive. Valentine’s Day is an example of “benevolent sexism”- “a subjectively positive orientation of protection, idealisation, and affection directed towards women that, like hostile sexism, serves to justify women’s subordinate status to men”. “Chivalry”, no longer a mounted warrior’s code but something to do with holding doors open, involves men looking after women in a way which keeps women subordinate.

Here is the blog “I Blame the Patriarchy”, a radical feminist affirming of trans women, who loathes femininity, calling it a performance which degrades and oppresses women. For Twisty, my experience of oppression enables me to empathise with that of others: discrimination, disenfranchisement, degradation, dehumanization. It’s the Four Ds! The Four Ds make all oppressed persons identical enough. Though after patriarchy is defeated, nobody will have to become anything because everyone will just be whatever they are. Meanwhile, we gotta stop slapping the Four Ds on anyone who fails to conform to the stupid misogynist gender binary.

For me, my femininity- consciously deferring, seeking to reduce conflict and build connection, delighting in being soft- is an expression of my essential self, and is beautiful and valuable. Someone needs to be like that or we would just kill each other. No-one should be forced into that role, certainly not all women; but with my particular life experience, I can only be myself expressing myself female.

You can see why radical feminism would be so attractive to me. No more gender stereotypes: as a man, I am so feminine, and the women I meet do not conform to their stereotype either. Then Violet pricks my bubble: it sounds plausible until you have a baby of your own. The differences are too big, too surprising, even to people planning to be gender neutral. Also, I think you only need a casual glance at every other species on the planet to know that gender differences broadly correlate with sex organs. There is research pointing both ways.

Monet three trees in Spring

29 thoughts on “Women’s oppression

    • Nobody is ‘qualified’ to define femininity for others. And seeking to marginalise the experiences of others and place yourself as ‘normal’ is both petty and illogical. There’s a broad sense of what some of the major behavioural differences are between people with different sex organs. We coin this term ‘femininity’ and apply it to our personal understanding, which is hugely influenced by our environment.

      Liked by 2 people

    • By all means, IB, define your femininity for yourself. And while at it, please refrain from doing it for all women in existence, the way you do it on your own blog and in your public utterances elsewhere.

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  1. Pingback: rigid gender roles and comedic farce | See, there's this thing called biology...

  2. There are innate biological differences between the average person with female sex organs and the average person with male sex organs. Obviously. The sex organs themselves release chemicals that influence our behaviour patterns. How this interacts with the given structure in society is way too complex for us to fully understand.

    If we were all brought into a society with radical feminist underpinnings, men would feel shame at their testosterone driven anger and strength. Heterosexual women who went weak at the knees and wanted to flash some flesh at a hot potential mate, would be mortified. The lessons of history would tell them how dangerous those basic responses are and core instincts that needn’t be harmful would be repressed in the majority of humans.

    I don’t believe there is a utopia out there that suits everyone. The best we can do is work to eliminate inequality and suffering as we identify it. As our society shifts and our behaviour changes, our idea of what direction we need to move in to would change to.

    Besides, if I were you and I agreed with Twisty, I wouldn’t bat an eyelid at any nonsense Violet wisps.

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    • It is not that I agree with Twisty, but my reaction to the last thing I read, and who is saying it. I am suggestible.

      Or it is that I am interested in the debate itself, and see the value of opposing points of view. That would be a more flattering way of seeing my responses.

      I’m confused.

      Incidentally I found another trans including radical feminist. I have just spent hours failing to puzzle out whether Mary Beard and Peter Tatchell are transphobic, initially based on their signing a letter to the Observer, or Richard Read– did he say trans women should use men’s toilets, or not? Who he, anyway? And what tactics for no-platforming are legitimate exercises in free speech themselves? But I did like this lesbian academic of colour: Those who are oppressed – who have to struggle to exist often by virtue of being a member of a group – are often judged as the oppressors. We only have to turn the pages of feminist history to know this. When lesbians demanded entry into feminist spaces, we were called a “lavender menace.” We got in the way of the project of making feminism more acceptable. To be rendered unacceptable is often to be treated as the ones with the power (the power to take something away).

      This bit warmed my heart: There are many radical feminists, both now and in the past, who would understand trans inclusion as a radical and necessary feminist practice. I am going to stop saying “radical feminist” when I mean TERF, and Prof. Sara Ahmed is my authority!

      This is part two, showing that Peter Tatchell is indeed racist. It is long and academic in parts.

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      • Understandably confused. We talk about ‘femininity’ like it’s a tangible thing – it’s just a vague notion in our head. I can’t imagine humans will ever be able to fully understand the effects of biology and environment that generate our individual perceptions. I think that’s why I have to argue with both Insanity and the radical feminists.

        I’m going to try and work my way through the links you’ve given here (how many things I want to read/watch in life that I miss and lose in comments!)

        On this issue of de-platforming I kind of liked what Angry Woman had to say:
        https://stavvers.wordpress.com/2016/02/19/so-you-dont-like-no-platforms-fine-lets-make-public-debates-better/

        On the issue of what appears to be mainly lesbian feminists kicking the boot in trans people (correct me if that’s wrong), it reminds me of a Romanian guy I met making disparaging comments about black people. Sometimes people have to stomp on someone else to feel they’re up the racial/sexual/intellectual hierarchy. It’s bizarre to watch. Makes me wonder where I do it.

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        • They are all long. They are academics, blogging, so speaking to decide what they think rather than saying it completely articulately.

          Not lesbians, necessarily: viragos, often heterosexual, but not “feminine” and angry about how the world fits men, and “feminine” women, better than it fits them. I have a lot of sympathy for the viragos.

          This is my precise state of confusion- as precise as I can be: right now I am in terror, which arises from the feeling that I cannot understand, or see how things are, and that I need to or I will be unable to survive in the World. Reading all this stuff, which tangentially affects me- should I use the gents’? Whose decision is it?- contributes to putting me in this terrified state. Explaining it and naming it to you helps me regain some equanimity.

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        • Here’s a thought: apart from the Virago Press, Radical Feminists, mostly heterosexual, don’t use the term “virago”- they use the word “female”, which emphasises that they speak for all people with female sex characteristics under Patriarchy, and without Patriarchy benevolent sexism would not exist. If, instead, they called themselves “Viragos”, a minority group more than usually oppressed by patriarchy, you would be entirely supportive!

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      • Thanks, Clare.

        Lindy is a brave woman. And a very good writer.

        She first came to my attention a while back when she confronted one of her nastiest Internet trolls. That story was featured on a radio program I listen to, “This American Life.”

        As a feminist, West is a “natural” target for the dregs that comprise MRA-n-ilk. She put up with their abuse until she decided not to, in case of this particular troll at least:
        http://www.theguardian.com/society/2015/feb/02/what-happened-confronted-cruellest-troll-lindy-west

        The bathroom brouhaha seems to me to be much ado about nothing, but it has managed to make very strange allies of (some?) radical feminists and evangelical Christians.

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        • Wow. It’s hard to feel hurt or frightened when you’re flooded with pity. Yes.

          I think they come from different positions. The evangelicals want to feel safe by means of everyone following rules about behaviour, including clear differences between men and women. Not all radical feminists: some have sympathy for trans folk, lesbian radical feminists know of lesbians being excluded fairly recently from feminist spaces, and some recognise that we subvert patriarchy by rejecting male privilege and prescribed male roles; but trans excluders may be disgusted at us and not ashamed of that disgust at other human beings, or (given that the distinction which they recognise is sex characteristics, which puts me on the wrong side) sympathetic to women who feel threatened by men in women’s spaces.

          My own answer is that we are an anomaly, not that serious; but I have to leave it up to the cis folk to decide. They are in the majority.

          Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for pointing to the truth that the gender pay gap isn’t entirely the making of different life choices, as many people make it out to be — i.e., women make less on average because many CHOOSE to leave work or work part-time for while when they have kids. Tell me how that holds up when, for women, there is a viable alternative to scaling way back on work and pay in order to have a family, when the vast majority of the work of parenting and households still falls on them. It’s hardly a choice.

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    • There is a lot of social pressure for women to do the parenting. One way would be to look at women who can easily afford a cleaner and child-minder- earning over a certain limit- to find out whether, where there is really a choice, do they give up work to look after children?

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      • Maybe — but even if the practical resources are there, does that override the pressing cultural issues? I was looking at a piece recently that was tackling this, and even controlling for the fact that some women drop out of the workforce to parent, there’s apparently still a male/female wage gap approaching ten percent (at least in the US). So even if you remove the women who leave work to parent from the equation, there’s a noticeable gap.

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        • If you consider the money earned by men as a whole, and the money earned by all women, the gap is much bigger.

          There are other reasons for the choice to leave work, which might include bullying, sexual harassment or not having ones talents recognised. I perceive constraints on choice.

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  4. I have a boy and a girl. I don’t see the differences that way. Every child, every person is different. Period.

    I have no problem with those that have a submissive personality. It is needed and valuable. I do have a problem with equating females with submission. It is an individual trait, not a gender-specific one.

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    • My main argument for trans acceptance is that we are just weirdos, mostly harmless. Arguing that trans women are particularly “feminine”, whatever that means, is just too much like hard work. Arguing what “feminine” means I irk more than I please.

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      • I wasn’t referring specifically to trans women. I just don’t think we should be calling submissiveness a female trait. Honestly, I wish we could just toss the concept of ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ out of society as a whole.

        Trans people, like all people, should be regarded and spoken to as they desire. They should be free to express themselves however they desire. I just wish we didn’t have to label everything. Actually, I think it can be argued that the multitude of gender expressions are moving us toward a less label intensive society.

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        • The Urban Dictionary definition was that “feminine” means pertaining to women, so anything women do is “feminine”. I feel people can be submissive in particular circumstances, not because they are male or female.

          Thank you for the second paragraph. I feel the more people are free to be not “normal”, not repressed, the more others are freed.

          Onywye. It is good to have you here. I liked what you said on Violet’s, Males and females tend to be certain ways, but research shows us that there is more variety within the two groups than there are differences between them. I am quite tired atm.

          Liked by 1 person

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