Necromancy, kittehs, and a link dump

Necromancy:

    I’m reviving my blog. The ultimate goal will be 2-3 posts a week, of which one will be a regular post, one will be a link-dump, and the optional third will be either another regular post or one of the more extensive projects I’ve been putting together (currently still working on putting together a few essays on 19th Century women’s rights activism, for example; and I also hope to get to another such project either on Backlash or on Intersectionality). That goal won’t be reachable until after my Cthulhu campaign ends, since right now, instead of writing blogs, I’m inventing more and more ways to try to drive my Investigators insane and/or kill them off. And at the very latest, a regular schedule should become very easy in August, when I begin my 1-year-break from university.

Kittehs:three fluffy cats cuddling on the floor

Link dump:

    a favorite MRA talking point refuted: no such thing as “women and children first”

    an example of PHMT that would have been easily fixed if we had an Equal Rights Amendment: Man accused of fraud after taking on his wife’s name

    from the WTF department: gun buyback nets a missile launcher

An interesting MRA argument

…and by “interesting” I mean that I’ve personally not run into it before, and that it’s actually one that deserves dissection rather than merely being laughed out of the room for sheer dumbosity. Somewhat unfortunately, this post has been incubating in my brain for so long that the blog in which I originally found the comments (No, Seriously, What About Teh Menz) seems to have moved to a new host, and now I can’t find anything there. So, this will be written from memory and therefore I can’t guarantee the full accuracy of the examples used to support the MRA’s talking point.

Anyway, the argument goes as follows:
We know that women have a higher status than men because women who “descend” into masculinity are tolerated , but men who are trying to do things “above their station” and adopt feminine things/behaviors are punished*; this is similar to the way rich people can affect the “ghetto” look and be cool, while poor people affecting upper class style and behavior are posers and fakes**; or similar to the way blackface is cool, but a black person trying to “pass” for a white one is considered to be transgressing.

The reason I find this argument interesting is because at first glance, that kinda sorta makes sense. Privileged people have more freedoms, and one of them is to appropriate things from the oppressed classes. Cultural appropriation for example is a huge problem with imperialism/colonialism/white culture***. But a closer analysis of the two claims in this argument makes it clear that that’s not quite how it works. So, let’s have a closer look at these claims:

1)The oppressors are permitted to be like the oppressed
This is only superficially true. As I mentioned, affecting and appropriating things that culturally belong to oppressed groups is certainly quite common. But there are “rules” about how you’re supposed to do that. For example, there’s a difference between appropriating/devaluing and adopting/supporting someone else’s oppressed identity. Wearing a hipster headdress is not the same as “decolonizing” and becoming involved in Native culture and society as an ally and/or as a spouse and parent to tribal members; donning blackface is not the same as becoming a student and promoter of Critical Race Theory; dressing up as a woman for Halloween, for a comedy show, or for a pride parade is not the same as living as a trans woman; and I’m willing to bet affecting a lower-class accent is not the same as abandoning your upper-class social ties and becoming a miner and moving to a working-class neighborhood. Point being, it’s ok to mock and play pretend, but it’s absolutely not ok to actually become part of, or a supporter of, the oppressed group. And in many ways, this can be seen by how the privileged classes define themselves, which is often by what they are not****. For example, pale skin was a sign of nobility when it meant that you were not a peasant; and then the Industrial Revolution happened, labor moved indoors, and suddenly suntanning became a sign of not being working class. Another example is Upper Class Etiquette (AKA “being classy”), which is basically an elaborate set of completely superfluous rules designed specifically as an artificial Upper Class Habitus setting the Upper Classes apart from the lower classes; and, sure, you can occasionally adopt what you think is a lower-class habitus, but only when it’s kinda obvious that it’s for shits and giggles; otherwise, it may well be perceived as a giant faux pas. A third, and probably the best-known example, is the one drop rule: whiteness being treated as such an endangered commodity that a single drop of black blood contaminated it permanently and made you non-white. Masculinity works much the same way, i.e. it identifies itself as what it is not, i.e. feminine. That’s why enforcement of transgressions out of masculinity and into femininity exist: they threaten the established hierarchy, and unlike in the cases of racism and classism, there isn’t even an equivalent ideology in the broader culture equivalent to “colorblindness” or “meritocracy” that would temper old-fashioned***** gender-policing the same way it sometimes does temper old-fashioned race- and class-policing.

2)The oppressed are forbidden from being like the oppressors
It is true that in order to properly maintain a hierarchy, it’s necessary to make sure the oppressed don’t just weasel out by becoming or passing for the oppressor. Further, since I just explained that the oppressor group often defines itself by what it is not, making sure that the oppressed don’t start doing oppressor-stuff is a way of preserving for oneself the permission to do these things#. However, internalized oppression and the hierarchy itself make it so that the stuff that “belongs” to the oppressor is seen as good, moral, “classy”, etc. while the stuff that “belongs” or identifies the oppressed groups is seen as inferior. Consequently, internal hierarchies within oppressed groups emerge, which state that even while being in the oppressed group, it’s “better” (more moral, more civilized, more normal, etc.) to be more like the oppressor and shun/abandon those things that mark one as a member of the oppressed class. Colorism is one such example, in which lighter skin color is higher in a racial hierarchy than darker skin, even among people of color themselves; similarly, African-Americans who have internalized a white habitus are considered more cultured than those who have a habitus associated with an African-American subculture (it’s probably not a coincidence that the first black president of the US is a biracial man raised by white people. Or, as Joe Biden noted is his typical foot-in-mouth kind of way: a “mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy”). Another one is the “normal gay” and “flamboyant gay” bullshit: gay men who are otherwise performing masculinity are seen as better, i.e. higher up on the hierarchy, than gay men who are seen to share more “feminine” attributes than just being attracted to men (incidentally, this is also where the weird thing about how it’s not “gay” to receive a blowjob from a man comes from: receiving blowjobs = manly, while giving blowjobs = womanly; and gay = womanly)##. In the trans community, this internal (self-)oppression based on how closely someone manages to conform to cisnormative and heteronormative rules is called the Harry Benjamin Syndrome.
And exactly the same happens to gender-roles. Because men are higher in the hierarchy, masculine things have higher status, whereas feminine things have lower status. The consequence? Femmephobia: the belief that feminine self-expression and things associated with femininity are inherently less good, moral, fun, valuable, etc. than masculine self-expression and things associated with masculinity. This is why women who do traditionally masculine things can sometimes be perceived as being “better” than those doing traditionally feminine things.
It should be noted that a lot of this “it’s better to be like the oppressor” stuff is a symptom of a transitional culture: in a static hierarchy, “upward mobility” of this kind is strictly punishable and control and suppresion of it seen as absolutely necessary for the survival of society. When it occurs within segregated minority communities, it’s only tolerated insofar as it’s invisible (or useful in a divide-and-conquer sort of way) to the oppressor group; the moment it spills out into the “mainstream” (read: the oppressor-dominated culture), it will be swiftly punished. In a transitional culture on the other hand, the oppressor culture becomes a “norm” and “ideal” that becomes a requirement for acceptance into a supposedly egalitarian/democratic/colorblind/whathaveyou mainstream. And when these two aspects clash, you get the faliliar Catch-22 that is being a member of an oppressed group: if you act in ways identified as belonging to your group, you’ll be shat on because of the low status of those social signifiers; if you instead act in ways identified with the oppressor group, you’ll be perceived as “uppity”, bitchy, a trap, a poser, etc., unless you somehow manage to do this while also helping maintain the hierarchy. See also “not like other women” and “model minority”.

So, to sum it up: oppressors are only allowed to appropriate oppressed-group-signifiers for the purpose of mockery and “play”, but not actually adopt them in any meaningful way; conversely, in transitional cultures with delusions of egalitarian ideals, the hierarchy itself mandates that acceptance into the “mainstream” requires emulation of the oppressor class on behalf of the oppressed. Therefore, the fact that women wearing pants is cool, but men wearing skirts is not isn’t a sign that women are the oppressor class; it’s a sign that masculinity has higher-status than femininity, and that we’re in a transitional culture which both enforces the masculinity-over-femininity hierarchy and uses the language of meritocracy and equality, thus basically saying that women have the right to abandon their shitty, feminine qualities and exchange them for the better, more masculine ones, while at the same time assigning lower status to anyone choosing to be more feminine than masculine###.

Conclusion: another MRA being wrong, albeit more creatively and cleverly than usual.

P.S.:I apologize for the ridiculous amount of footnotes. The topic got away from me a few too many times, and there’s entirely too many tangents kinda-sorta-relevant to this topic.

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*women wearing pants vs. men wearing skirts; the fact that trans men face less violence than trans women; etc.
**to use my own example of this, take for example British class consciousness. It’s kinda fashionable for upper class Brits to affect lower-class accents; OTOH, someone from a lower class background trying to affect an upper class accent could be interpreted as uppity, fake, a poser etc. Also, from what I understand, there’s also a thing among younger folks of “dropping” aristocratic titles to be cool; but you’d get your ass handed to you if you instead wanted to take one on when you don’t have one. So, down-classing yourself = cool; up-classing yourself = punishable
***for example, here’s an entire excellent blog about appropriations of Native American culture by whites, especially by hipster culture: Native Appropriations
****that’s actually one of the identifying characteristics of being a privileged group: being the default, the un-modified state; being defined in common language as that which lacks distinguishing characteristics. That’s why “ethnic” never refers to WASPs, even though that’s technically a kind of ethnicity, and a human figure lacking secondary (or tertiary) sexual characteristics is interpreted as male.
*****”old-fashioned” vs. “modern” bigotry is a discussion in and of itself, but basically it’s the difference between being a blatantly prejudiced and discriminatory bigot (what we traditionally call “a racist”, “a misogynist” etc.) and someone who perpetrates microaggressions. Don’t know where dogwhistles fall here; probably the former masquerading as the latter
#and actually, it just occurred to me that of course appropriation is a way to allow the oppressor-group to do oppressed-people-stuff without losing their status and identity: Pat Boone’s career is in fact based entirely on this principle.
##the issue with “lipstic lesbians” vs. butch lesbians doesn’t neatly fit here because of the intersectional nature of it: on the one hand, feminine lesbians are considered “straighter” and more gender-role-conforming than butch lesbians, and thus are rewarded for that; on the other, femmephobia means that a feminine form of self-expression is considered lower-status than a masculine AKA butch one.
###while simultaneously still enforcing the old gender-roles. this intersectionality means that gender-non-conforming cis women and gender-non-conforming cis men both end up suffering along two axes of oppression while being in the oppressor category on one; and it’s also this intersectionality that synergistically ends up super-shitty for trans women, because they suffer from femmephobia (pretty much regardless of how butch their self-expression; but femme trans women tend to get more of this), gender-non-conformity (when they’re treated as supergay or superfeminine men), and misogyny.

assorted short thoughts

1)this being the last few weeks of school, I’m swamped with work and taking a blogging-break until mid-May

2)I was linked by a real-life journalist! yay! plus, the blogpost she wrote was very interesting, so go read

3)visual WTF of the day

4)verbal WTF of the day:

If the demand for land were only D4, land rent would be zero. Land would be a free good — a good for which demand is so weak relative to supply that an excess supply of it occurs even if the market price is zero. [...] This essentially was the situation in the free-land era of U.S. History

Non-custodial parents, the numbers

In arguments about the fairness of family law, most of the time the argument centers on anecdotes, or, at best, around partial, cherry-picked statistics, so I decided to look into what the numbers say as a whole about divorce, unmarried parents, custodial parents, non-custodial parents, and their socioeconomic situation.

So. For starters, most studies done on divorce show that women end up economically worse off, while men end up economically better off after a divorce. Now, this data skews a bit because the further into the past you go, the stronger the effect is, and most of the studies I was able to find were old. The most frequently reappearing study is one done in the 70′s (here is a re-evaluation of said study, from 1995), and most other ones are longitudinal studies written up in the 90′s (if someone has more recent data on this, I’d be grateful), or are studies about Europe. The last paper I link to cites non-divorce-related discrimination as the source of this impoverishment of women. This discrimination, while diminished from the 70′s and 80′s, still exists, and so a base difference in divorce outcomes very likely still exists*. The question then would be whether family court decisions are making up or even inverting the effect of this discrimination and thus lessening or reversing the impact divorce has on the people involved. And since this post is specifically about parents, whether and how divorcees with children are affected.
A study from Washington (the state, not the city) shows how the economic situations differ for joint households vs. single-parent households, and how the economic situations of parents change after a divorce. In most cases, everybody is worse off uncoupled, but the mother is worse off than the father regardless of whether she’s the custodial parent or not. Custodial mothers experience a smaller reduction than non-custodial mothers (42% vs. 48%), but custodial fathers experience a greater reduction than non-custodial fathers (14% vs. 11%). The situation looks somewhat different in Title IV-D cases(pdf link!) in which the father is the custodial parent, where the noncustodial mothers actually end up with an increase of economic well-being from a shared household, while the custodial fathers end up with a large reduction (31% for divorcees, and a drastic 85% for all cases). Despite what MRA’s claim though, custodial mothers are not better off than non-custodial fathers in any of the scenarios, both in absolute and in relative terms.
What those statistics seem to tell us that child custody does not impoverish fathers and enrich mothers, and that the only situation in which men end up worse off than women are custodial fathers in IV-D cases (but the divorced custodial fathers are still better off than the divorced custodial mothers, so I’d REALLY like to know how large the cohort of unmarried single fathers in IV-D cases is, and what causes the DRASTIC departure from all the other statistics). But the demographic most bemoaned by MRA’s, the non-custodial fathers, end up on average getting the best economic deal out of living in a separate household (meaning the least reduction of economic well-being), be it because of divorce or being unmarried, only second (and only in relative terms) to the much smaller cohort of non-custodial IV-D mothers.

The other thing that MRA’s often argue is that the Family Courts are biased because mothers are more likely to get custody than fathers, and more likely to get sole custody than have a shared custody. Apparently this was true in the 90′s, when 75% of all cases resulted in sole custody for the mother(in 40% of which the father didn’t even have visitation rights). That number however includes the 1/3 of all fathers who wanted the mother to have sole custody. When custody had to be decided by outside sources (trial or mediation), sole custody for the mother only happened 44% of the time. Still more than joint custody or sole custody to the father, but evidently it was possible for fathers to gain at least some access, if they wanted it. 70% of fathers still reported not having as much access to their children as they wanted, though (interestingly, no one compiled that statistic for women, even though 25%-56% of them might theoretically feel the same).
So, yes, at least in the 90′s there was discrimination against fathers in custody agreements. Prejudiced attitudes of fathers and mothers against the need for the father to be involved seem to have figured very heavily into this, and probably this also reflected the attitudes of the courts. How this has changed over the last 15-20 years I don’t know, but neither complete parity nor a lack of change is likely (the former because social change doesn’t happen that quickly, and the latter because attitudes towards fathers’ involvement in parenting have been changing significantly). One thing that has been happening is an increasing demand for joint custody, and some states even made joint custody mandatory, at least temporarily. That would improve the situation of the non-custodial parent in terms of access to the child, but it is not at all clear that it improves the situation of the child. Certainly, in cases where a couple chooses joint custody (or for that matter, intra-marriage co-parenting, since a lot of studies simply focus of father-involvement in raising children), the children are better off; but comparing that to cases in which joint custody wasn’t voluntarily chosen and then mandating it is a bit like saying that because children of married couples are better off than children of divorced couples, we should ban divorce. In both cases, the conflict and antisocial behavior most likely responsible for the problems won’t disappear just by removing the most obvious indicator of problems. In fact, it can make things worse.
From my personal perspective, then, joint custody mustn’t be mandatory, but it should be the default assumption of courts unless evidence is present that another arrangement is better for the child (i.e. evidence of harmful and antisocial behavior of one parent, as well as evidence for high-conflict between the parents).

In conclusion, there does seem to be some discrimination against fathers in family-court, but it’s not at all what MRA’s claim it is. Non-custodial fathers come out of a separation a lot better off than anyone else, even if they have to pay child-support. The discrimination that IS present seems to be focused on the good-oldfashioned sexist assumption that men pay and women do everything else, which means fathers who want more involvement in their children’s lives won’t necessarily get it. However, forced joint custody, while certainly better taking into account the rights of the fathers, might well be trampling on the rights of the children, and is therefore not necessarily the best solution to the problem, either. Getting away from patriarchal attitudes and patriarchal child-care assumptions would probably make it more possible to see to the welfare of a child on an individual basis.

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* originally, I’d thought to point out that this might have changed during the current recession, which resulted in a greater loss of traditionally male jobs than traditionally female jobs, but while this is true, the losses between 2007 and now were from 88% to 81% for men, and from 73% to 69% for women, and I’m not going to just assume that all these non-working women are trophy wives and voluntary SAHM’s, though I’m sure some are. And apparently, women are starting to catch up, and unlike men, they’re not just becoming unemployed, they’re leaving the labor force altogether.

Masculinity links and thoughts

Fighting is so manly– this reminds me if some of the cultural narratives that lead to WWI. It was a war that was caused by a flimsy excuse, because the men in power at the time (most notably Willie II) were feeling emasculated by the peace they had been born into. And the same urge to become a “man” was visible in many of the young men who were also itching for a war to fight in. And even abroad, as far as the US, young men were itching to join the war-effort to become “men”. because according to the cultural narrative, that’s what being a soldier did: making men out of boys. Interestingly, this is a form of toxic masculinity that has been dying in many places, even to some degree in the US (though the narratives of how joining the military will make you a better “person” are still very much present). Unfortunately though, in some ways, the narrative still exists. Wilhelm II of Germany started a war to prove his manliness. And so did George II of America, since it’s very hard to interpret the Afghanistan war and especially the Iraq war as anything other than posturing to not look weak “in the face of terrorism”.

The Boy Code — this one made me think of the “be stupid” Diesel Jeans campaign. I’ve written before about how there’s always been a conflict in the Patriarchy about where educated men stand in the Manly Man competition, but it was always a conflict tempered by the fact that women weren’t allowed in higher education, thus at least making being highly educated a masculine domain. Now that women are all over higher education, and slowly gaining more ground even in the most masculine disciplines, being smart and educated has lost the battle to the “Wolverine” kind of masculinity completely. being stupid and aggressive and impulsive and perpetually angry is now the only way to be a Real Man. But the MRA’s still insist that it’s the feminists’ fault that boys now fall behind in many academic subjects.

Oh yeah, and also reminds me of a line from the movie Gran Torino, in which the actress playing a young Hmong woman says something along the lines of “our girls go to college, our boys go to jail”.

Colbert on telling candidates to “man up” — no comment on this one; just an apology to my non-american readers since IIRC Comedy Central can’t be watched without an American proxy.

All Peggy’s Men

Pandagon has been doing Mad Men Mondays, which is how I got into watching that show. And OMFG, is it ever an awesome show. But lately it feels like the Mad Men Monday threads don’t address the stuff that goes thru my mind when I watch the show, so I think I’m going to occasionally blog about it too. And I’m going to start with Sunday’s episode, because it was one of the best ones so far. It was called “The Suitcase”, because superficially it was about trying to create an ad for Samsonite suitcases (and because all the characters in the episode unload fucktons of “baggage” on each other), but it might as well have been titled “All Peggy’s Men”, since it revolved around her, and three men with which she had three different kinds of relationships: her bland-ass, family-picked fiance who doesn’t have his own internet page and whose name I don’t remember; Duck, her former lover, who is still (literally) insanely in love with her and who is a relapsed alcoholic; and her boss Don Draper, a slightly stereotypical “asshole with a heart of gold” who is recently divorced, lonely, and as a result on his best way to become an alcoholic, as well, and who has throughout the show been sort of a mentor to Peggy.

The episode takes place on Peggy’s birthday, and the three guys manage to show themselves from their least pleasant sides: her fiance invites her whole family (with whom she doesn’t get along well at all) to what was supposed to be a romantic candle-light dinner as a “surprise”, then throws a fit over her having to work late, and they actually break up; Duck starts out ok, by sending her flowers and a gift which is the offer to become a partner in an ad agency he wants to create, except then it turns out that he’s drunk, doesn’t really have the funding for this, and actually got his ass fired from his previous job. And then he shows up at her work, sobbing about how he can’t go on without her, but ending up calling her a whore when he thinks she slept with her boss. Draper himself comes off least bad of the three, and that’s saying a lot considering he starts out by taking her apart for an ad idea he didn’t like, and then making her work late (probably because he’s lonely and dealing with a fuckton of emotional issues in that episode especially), and then getting drunk and throwing up. But at least he doesn’t insult her, apologizes for fucking up her birthday after finding out it was her birthday, buying her for food and drinks for that, and actually having a halfway sane, caring personal conversation with her (while the other dudes made their relationships with her mostly about themselves).

Anyway, somewhere halfway through this episode there’s a scene shortly after the break-up (by phone) with the lame fiance who doesn’t really know shit about her, when she drags her boss to the bathroom where he proceeds to throw up a lot, and her ex-lover shows up to make a scene. At that point, Peggy gets this really weird expression on her face… and for a moment I got this impression that if this were me in that situation, I’d be thinking that if this was my choice of men, becoming a spinster/crazy catlady would suddenly seem far more appealing. As a matter of fact, almost none of the men in the show make very good husbands: if they’re not lying, cheating, divorcing-for-a-younger-model assholes, they’re paternalistic and condescending.

So there you have it… patriarchy makes men unappealing.

Toxic femininity

So, I’ve noticed that I wrote a lot about Teh Menz in my feminism category. And while I think that talking about changing male culture and creating healthy ways for men to relate to themselves and to women is important and needs to be talked about, it would be neglectful to do so to the exclusion of talking about female cultures, their toxic aspects, and how to transform it into cultures and systems that allow the most women to feel confident in being themselves, without double standards and discrimination.

So I’m making a post about toxic femininity, as a counterpart to toxic masculinity. So, while toxic masculinity is part continuation of good oldfashioned patriarchy, and part newly created backlash to feminism, so toxic femininity can also be described as part tradition part backlash. And just like toxic masculinity defines itself by what it is not (female), so toxic femininity defines itself as not-male. Both are gender-essentialist and stereotypical, ignoring individual variation and preferences; and both are inherently based on gender inequality. Now, the problem is that the term isn’t really well defined anywhere, and is often simply used by people who don’t like the existence of toxic masculinity pointed out to them. But I think in modern culture, I can identify three developments that can rightly be described as a form of toxic femininity: 1)A backlash against feminism by women, resulting in re-adoption of strict patriarchy; 2)Adaptation to the current culture of toxic masculinity by creating a corresponding femininity to coexist with it; 3)A backlash against toxic masculinity resulting in anti-male femininity.

1)This one is closely related to the mechanism that created modern fundamentalism as a backlash to an increasingly secular society, and it is indeed often closely tied in with religion. It seems at least in part also a reaction to the fact that feminism in no way magically solved all of women’s problems, but rather created an interim period in which women were both housekeepers and wageearners; most women react to this by demanding more help on the homefront from men; some women however were lured in the other direction, into the mythical idyll of getting stable, calm, worry-free homes full of children and people who give a fuck about you personally. instead of having to get yelled at by a boss, having to worry about finances, having to have your marriage fall apart because you can’t be a perfect wife and a career woman etc This desire to escape modern reality is probably best shown in The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality written in 1985 by Mary Pride, who turned from a childless feminist activist into a evangelical christian SAHM who homeschooled and shunned birth-control. This mentality is now best represented by the Prairie Muffins and the Quiverfull movement, in which femininity is defined by motherhood and submissiveness to the males in the family (father/brothers/husband)

2)This is probably the most common variety, as it’s basically the default in Western Culture, which is, to a lesser or greater degree, steeped in and dominated by toxic masculinity. It’s also easily the most confusing, since modern culture sends mixed signals to women as to what they should be to be feminine and valuable as such. At its core is of course the acceptance of the core-issue of toxic masculinity, i.e. that females are worse than males; and while men lose points for being tainted with femaleness, women can gain points by having maleness rub off on them. The confusing and contradicting messages our culture sends out result in different stereotypical strategies that girls and women are presented with to gain access to men and therefore have their attention and proximity validate them and elevate their status. What all of these strategies have in common is that they define femininity as something that exists for the pleasure of men, put women in vicious competition against each other for the attention of men, and that none of them actually leads to men accepting women in their entirety, rather than partially in their particular role, be it “sex-object”, “one of the guys, not really a girl”, “nice girl” or whatever. On an individual level, women in that situation are generally somehow expected to play all these roles at once and are punished when they fail; which they will, because the stereotypes are all mutually exclusive.

3)the third option is radically different from the other two and wouldn’t usually get listed in a lineup of versions of “toxic femininity”, but I feel that it still fits in here. Basically, it can be summed up as the movement by feminists who have come to the conclusion that toxic masculinity has corrupted the left and especially sexual liberation (basically, turned it from the patriarchal model of ownership of female sexuality to the Bill Maher version of liberation: “it’s good because it gets me laid more”), and that men are in fact incorrigible, worthless assholes. This version of toxic femininity is separatist and basically based on misandry. In more moderate versions of separatist feminism (especially heterosexual feminism), this meant simply refusing to deal with men and male-centered issues while focusing on women-specific issues, creating female-centered communities, and strengthening the community and dialogue to improve women’s lives in general. But it has evolved in some instances into the belief that women are humans and men are parasites. This is a sentiment especially strong within the lesbian separatist movement. Especially in the form of Political lesbianism, which claims that sexuality can be a choice, it can be toxic because it denies female heterosexuality as a valid and healthy lifestyle and advocates that women, if they really want to be free of the patriarchy, need to sever ties not just with men, but also with women who refuse to give up on men, sexually, or otherwise. Some of the most toxic examples of misandrist separatist lesbianism can be found at FSTDT here and here.

Anyway, the reason I find that all three of these fit the bill for “toxic femininity” is because they, like toxic masculinity, pretend like womanhood has a very specific look and feel that should be followed. Also, all three seem more like coping strategies which may or may not work fine for some women, but are not a viable, healthy option for all women. And because of that, they’re exclusionist and set women up against each other in a competition to perform the specific version of femininity they advocate. And they’re definitely no solutions to the problem of patriarchy and toxic masculinity, but rather strategies for coping with it. There’s no means at improving the situation for everyone anywhere in there.

A healthy definition for womanhood would have to be one that both accepts individual preferences, and acknowledges that we’re by a large degree shaped by our cultures, which can be changed as a group but not defied by all women all by themselves. Healthy womanhood would allow women to draw value from within, from themselves and their own definition of themselves, not from their relationship (or lack thereof) with men; and it cannot base their feeling of self-worth on denigrating others, be it non-conforming women or men. Because of that, a healthy femininity would have to be less precise and well-defined than the examples above, while at the same time more rigidly establishing the rule that all women are equally worthy regardless of how (or whether) they choose to express their femininity; it also needs to enshrine “enthusiastic consent” into all actions and interactions, be they with other women or men, and not just in the sexual context. Just like fighting toxic masculinity and establishing a healthy alternative means removing the pressure from men to be and do things others have decided they should to be respected as men and people, so fighting toxic femininity and establishing a healthy alternative means removing the same pressure from women, so that they don’t have to feel the pressure to become the perfect SAHM, the perfect sex-object, or the perfect man-free feminist to feel that they’re Real True Women, and real, valuable people.

In that sense, the main job for feminism, from my perspective, is to uncover and destroy the social, economic, and legal inequalities and barriers that deny women their right to self-expression, and do so without establishing new ones.

link dump

just some links to stuff that’s relevant to what I’ve been writing about:

  • Example of non-voting democratic action, including the “the strident [insert minority here] are ruining it for everybody else!” canard.
  • An environmental website that deals excellently with the local vs. global dilemma :-)
  • A blogpost that demonstrates the crassly negative effects Toxic Masculinity can have on male-female interaction (AKA Toxic Masculinity ruins it for everyone)
  • An article about first steps towards finding an antidote to Toxic Masculinity, and about problems with defining a masculinity that isn’t toxic

and on a completely unrelated note, my blogpost on sex and toxic masculinity is on the 2nd page of google search for toxic masculinity. I’m so awesome :-p

Toxic Masculinity (part two)

Ok, so this is gonna be finally that essay on Toxic Masculinity and sex that I said I was gonna write.

Sex and Toxic Masculinity are an idiotically complex, convoluted and messy topic. This is because Manly Men are supposed to have lots of sex; in order to do that however, they have to be involved with those horribly deficient and nasty creatures called “women” (because having sex with men is what women do*, and is therefore feminine and therefore must be avoided at all costs by Manly Men). Prolonged exposure to these “women”, and being seen in their company, and worst of all enjoying their company could lead to ball-shrinkage and possible loss of penis, and therefore must be avoided at all costs. So, how do you have lots of sex with women, but still avoid being contaminated by their womenness?

The answer usually is to treat sex as something you take from and do to women, as opposed to something you do with and for them. Once women become the antagonists in the sex-game, sex not only stops being feminizing, but becomes actively masculinizing because it means having men “conquer” and “vanquish” women; when sex happens, it means the man won.

This has several effects on people. For one, the constant need to keep sex antagonistic requires a vast amount of toxic sludge being poured onto women, and relationships with them. Once upon a time, being married was considered a must for a gentlemen and properly established man. Now it’s a trap existing solely for the purpose of “taming” the man-beast, which men are taught to avoid. It still isn’t actually true that men don’t want relationships and commitment, but the culture teaches them that they aren’t supposed to want them, and in the most toxic environments are pressured into either avoiding them completely, or twisting them to their benefit (i.e. reducing the partner to a domestic slave and incubator either verbally or in fact; cheating; pretending that it’s not a relationship, but rather this crazed chick chasing after you).

Two, the interpretation that sex is antagonistic puts rape on a continuum with actual sex. When sex is not ever considered to be actually mutually consensual, but rather something that a man tricks or pressures a woman into doing(learning how to lower her defenses by various means is the premise of this nasty little book, which is a prime example of the antagonistic interpretation of sex), rape simply becomes the most extreme form of “getting sex from a woman”; and the concept of date rape becomes invisible altogether, since without the concept of true consensus, the only difference between sex and rape is physical force.

Three, toxic masculinity shapes the way women who grew up with it learn to interact with men, and with other women. This ranges from a form of self-hatred (similar to the self-hatred exhibited by black kids in the doll tests) and hatred of other women that causes some women to prefer being “one of the guys” rather than make friends with other women, to extreme territoriality in relationships (i.e. if your boyfriend tries to devalue you and your relationship by demeaning you and cheating on you, your only defense becomes keeping your man on a very short leash, and keeping all other women (except those “loyal” and “subordinate” to you) as far away as possible from him; remaining single is not an option), to accepting the role of evil harridan, because it is the only way you can get cooperation out of a toxic male**. IOW, toxic masculinity creates toxic femininity. And this in turn validates and strengthens Manly Men’s low opinion of women. A fucking vicious cycle.

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*no, I have no idea how lesbians figure into this, precisely.

**all of these are situations I got to personally witness in this glorious place called ND. Seems almost the only exception were the religious folks, where the guys treat the women like precious, pure and fragile dolls, and the women acted this angelic role out *facepalm*

Toxic Masculinity (Part One)

Toxic Masculinity (Part One)

This was supposed to be a single post, but then that sex conversation broke out on Pharyngula’s Endless Thread, and issues from that kept invading this as I was writing it. Since it was all rather tangential to my point here, I cut those bits out and will make a separate post about toxic masculinity and sex some other day. This post is about toxic masculinity and environmentalism.

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Toxic Masculinity is one of those “patriarchy hurts men, too” things; the “patriarchy” part is the part where men are better than women; the “hurts men” part is where having your dangly bits between your legs rather than on your chest is a necessary but not sufficient condition for being a man. For that, you must under all circumstances and at all times avoid accumulating women-points by doing or saying things that are considered feminine; best is to do the opposite of “feminine”, which of course then would be “masculine”, and gives you man-points.

Now, what precisely is considered feminine (and therefore having its opposite considered masculine) is almost completely arbitrary, but it’s one hell of a long list. It starts at such relatively harmless things as peeing while sitting down, but it also includes things that have real consequences to men (hence the “hurts men, too” part), like the weird belief that going to the doctor is “girly” unless you’re bleeding to death (and even then, you’d probably get extra man-points if you just sew your wound shut with spiderwire), so men miss out on a lot of preventive care because it’s not manly, and they end up suffering health consequences. This goes double for mental health; men are still more likely than women to commit suicide, and toxic masculinity is a main reason for that.

Toxic Masculinity has other, broader effects as well. Something I hadn’t much considered before, but am starting to notice more because it touches on issues I find important, is that it affects how far and how fast progressive changes to society can be advanced. Toxic masculinity seems always at the forefront of every imaginable backlash to progressive politics, most obviously of course in terms of women’s and LGBT rights (because they clash with the very basis of patriarchal thinking). But it also clashes with efforts to become more environmentally sustainable.

I’ve recently read this article from my free monthly trial of Environmental Communication: A Journal of Nature and Culture (because I’m dirt-poor, and can’t afford subscriptions to these kinds of things :-p ) about meat consumption and masculinity. It talks about three commercials (this and this, and a third one I couldn’t find on youtube) which show manhood attacked by “chickfood”, i.e. small portions, veggies, tofu, et cetera. “Chickfood” stands in contrast to “manfood”, which in the first commercial are giant slabs of red meat, and in the second one it’s a ginormous, fatty burger. Now, why precisely healthy food is chickfood I don’t know (it’s probably some weird hunter-gatherer pretension where meat=manly, greenery=womanly), but it being “chickfood” means men must avoid it in order to avoid turning into girly-men. Now, the first problem is simply that this manly food is unhealthy, so being forced by the rules of toxic masculinity to eat it or else turn into a girl is already bad for men, on an individual level. On a societal level though, this also means that shifting away from highly processed foods, giant slabs of red meat and other highly inefficient forms of food threatens toxic masculinity, and as such is being actively hindered by this “eating less meat will turn you into a girl” peer-pressure/backlash. At the same time, the words “sustainable” and “organic”, and “vegetarian” are considered essential chickfood labels. And god forbid you actually go to a farmer’s market! On a Saturday morning, when every self-respecting manly man is recovering from a proper hangover!

And the same goes for transportation: the humvee AKA Hummer is most “manly” vehicle; a Honda Civic or a Toyota Prius already makes you pretty girly; a bicycle turns you immediately into a “bike fag”. And for saving electricity (what sort of man doesn’t have a ginormous entertainment center?! or wears a sweater, like that girly-man Carter?!), and for recycling, and for recreation (ATVs are manlier than biking and hiking), and for a whole bunch of other things.

So, the big question is: how do you move forward in creating a healthier, more sustainable society when men are being told that doing so will make their penis fall off?

Toxic Masculinity (part two)