1000 Years of This. 40 Years of That. April 25, 2013Posted by FCM in books!, gender roles, international.
Tags: essentialism, gerda lerner, male violence, the creation of feminist consciousness
i just finished reading gerda lerners “the creation of feminist consciousness” which is part 2 of her 2-part series. part one, “the creation of patriarchy” was previously discussed here. this series is an excellent history lesson and one i appreciated very much, although i admit skipping/skimming many of the details and getting straight to the conclusions/insights which is what i read feminist works for afterall. the big picture. when i see something that fascinates me, such as the material and social conditions that make slavery possible, i go back and try to grok the details the best i can.
in this case, i went back and tried to grok the details of 1000 years of feminist bible criticism, by which lerner demonstrates feminists tendency to reinvent the wheel when it comes to feminist reasoning and conclusions, and why this is. she concludes that womens history is lost to us via silencing and erasing feminists and feminist work, which stunts and thwarts the development of a global feminist consciousness over time. and that this erasure of history is one reason women have remained oppressed for so much longer than any other oppressed group on earth. she notes that despite starting from scratch every time, women have long struggled to be free of male oppression and have resisted it, and have tried to think and reason their way out of it even when they thought they were the first and only ones to do it and at great cost to themselves in terms of mental labor and personal risk, up to and including death. this is striking, yes.
but what particularly struck me was the substance of womens 1000-year history of criticizing the bible, where women specifically protested its prescriptions/proscriptions about womens natures, including womens roles in a patriarchal culture (thats redundant of course. patriarchy *is* culture). remember that institutionalized patriarchy, where legal and religious texts merely codified preexisting patriarchal relations that had already existed for a long time, is not the beginning-point of womens oppression by men. institutionalized patriarchy appeared about 5000 years ago, but male dominance over women, including mens control of womens reproduction and mens self-granted right to define womens role has been around much, much longer. (this is discussed in part one). so in reality, women were protesting something that had been around for perhaps 10,000 years or longer: womens role as fuckholes and slaves for men. and each woman who did this thought that she was the first to do it. women rarely built on previous womens work because they didnt know about it.
now, i ask you. where did this resistance and core-deep courage come from? how could each woman, who believed that she was a cognitive minority of one (or some other very small number) gather the gumption and conviction to realize, believe and assert that womens nature was *not* to be fuckholes and slaves to men, but was something else entirely?
note that for 1000 years, while women were resisting what
the bible patriarchy said about womens nature, these women were not saying that mens nature had been misrepresented at all. although lerner concludes that early feminist thinkers articulated the difference between sex and gender, and that *both* mens and womens “gender roles” were arbitrary and socially-prescribed, i would note the complete absence of the assertion that men were not naturally violent, necrophilic and parasitic for example. in my own estimation, these have nothing to do with the male gender, and everything to with the male sex. i think early feminists knew that only too well, and that the ways this played out on womens bodies and lives (in the absence of relatively-reliable birth control for example) made the reality and unalterability of mens despicable natures more than obvious.
behold an early feminists articulation of gender. in the context of arguing that women were fit for the ministry, she asserts:
…that intellect is not sexed; that strength of mind is not sexed; and that our views about the duties of men and the duties of women, the sphere of man and the sphere of woman, are mere arbitrary opinions, differing in different ages and countries, and dependent solely on the will and judgement of erring mortals.
this from a woman named sarah grimke who lived from 1792-1873. she is talking about jobs, and roles. she was notably not talking about mens demonstrated tendency to be violent necrophiles, sexual abusers and predators across time and place. and frankly gerder presents *no* evidence in this history lesson that any early feminists disputed this at all, or conflated male behavior, specifically male violence, with culturally-determined gendered roles such as who can and should do what job. get it?
in fact, grimke astutely notes that mens enslavement of women was deliberate, disgusting and dickish. she notably does not suggest that men were acted upon by aliens, or were acting against mens own natures when they did this:
Men have not only degraded women, but have made them mere instruments for their own comfort. They have enslaved women’s minds, deprived them of education, and finally robbed them of the knowledge of their equal humanity.
and “equal” here does not really seem to mean “equal” in any modern way. for example, does grimke seem to suggest that women are attempting to gain political, social and interpersonal standing so that they can indulge “equally” in the enslavement, deprivation and robbery that all humans are prone to? i dont see it.
hilariously, in the 1500s, a woman named jane anger (!) describes and documents mens parasitic, filthy natures when she asserts that men are “comforted by our means. Without our care they lie in their beds as dogs in litter and go like lousy mackerel swimming in the heat of summer.” without women, men would lie in their own shit and be completely uninterested or unable to perform self-care. not because aliens, and not because “gender” either.
so whats my point? i guess i have two. feminist-thinking women have been asserting for over a millenia that womens nature is misrepresented by patriarchy (and via patriarchal institutions such as religion) and that this is a deliberate ploy on behalf of men who want to dominate and enslave us. women know, somehow, that this is not our true nature and we resist this propaganda/terror campaign bravely, actively and passionately. we can feel that this is true, and we know that men are lying about us. and we notably have *never* as far as i can tell tried to convince anyone that mens true nature wasnt and isnt exactly what it appears to be, and what men demonstrate by their own behavior, institutions and dictates across time and place.
this rather significant addition to feminist thought appears to be new. this is not our history, but a recent development that seems to have appeared with equality rhetoric, and certainly after the burning times, where women learned more and more (not less and less) what men were capable of, and what they did to women who said and did things men didnt like. and following a global campaign to silence and erase feminist thought, including women who for 1000 years (or more) have been documenting what appears to be a universal model of male behavior that doesnt differ *at all* across time and place, including males *acting out* parasitism, necrophilia, violence and rape, regardless of what jobs they do, clothes they wear or anything else. i think this needs to be discussed. that is all.