Not Chattel July 29, 2013Posted by FCM in books!, liberal dickwads, logic, meta, race, rape.
Tags: chattel, gerda lerner, slavery
its hard and painful enough to get your head around the idea that under patriarchy, women are “chattel,” meaning that we are not human and are only a partial (or no) step above mens personal property in the grand (male) scheme of things. this “chattel” concept was useful to me once or it felt like it, in the same way perhaps as other “feminist” concepts like the male gaze, enthusiastic consent and other things that move the emphasis a little, or shift your everyday perspective/perceptions a bit and give you an inkling that there is something more/else (inequality, men, rape) there than what you thought.
but chattel? really? this reminds me of liberal dickwad and white anti-racism activist tim wise waxing idiotic about american black slavery, and how his great-great-great (or whatever) “grandparents” owned slaves exactly as one would own a table or a lamp. those are his words, not mine. of course, when talking about personal property like tables and lamps one is talking about chattel. for this to be the truth of american black slavery (or any slavery) however, his “grandparents” including his grandmothers wouldve had to have been able to own property to begin with, which may or may not have been the case and tim wise doesnt address the legal status of his grandmothers at all or indicate any feminist awareness at all when analyzing an institution that implicated both women and men (as all institutions do).
and importantly, for the chattel designation/analogy to work, the “grandparents” wouldve had to stick their dicks into their tables and lamps and create shared children with them. get it? either something is just like something else, or its not. and “like tables and lamps” does not describe the reality of slavery at all, either for female slaves or for the “people” who own/ed them. it just doesnt.
beyond that, there is evidence that “chattel” is not just an analogy badly drawn; as a concept applied to women and mens relationship to women, its actually impossible because of time. and this is because men owning women likely predated the concept of personal property and personal ownership — women were the first property (mens), its where the idea and concept of “ownership” of anything actually came from.* so in reality, men own tables and lamps like they own women. saying it the other way is like saying that wal-mart predated (and perhaps caused) moms and pops opening the first stores on main street. isnt it? its a time-thing.
so besides revealing the truth of the matter, what does examining and then using/refusing the “chattel” analogy mean for us?
well, for one thing, discarding the flawed “chattel” analogy opens up the concepts of ownership and property beyond just “personal property” like tables and lamps — real estate is not counted as chattel for example, even though men “own” it. and natural resources arent chattel either, but men own those too — rather like they own women as a matter of fact. taking complete dominion over something they know nothing about and are actually powerless to control in any meaningful or absolute way, or in a way existing outside mens own delusions. im not saying they dont try of course, or that they dont really believe this is their “right” and that its even possible, or that they arent abusive and threaten to use it all up and kill us all (and themselves!) in the process because they obviously do. the point there i guess would be to consider that women function as natural resources to them (and not chattel), or more to the point women were/are the first/original “natural resource” which helps us isolate the root of our oppression (and explains why mens abuse of us is mostly sexual. duh).
the women-as-chattel analogy also reverses the the timing and causation elements, where something that comes after something cannot cause it, or provide the model for it (among other things). again we see the “time” element is important to our thinking about it — men have “owned” (or whatever, exploited, used and used-up) women for a very long time. this brings up other issues/questions, including questions of ownership in general, and (perhaps?) whether increasing/creating female wealth including ownership of property is likely to free us, or whether “womens land” is something we want or if its even possible seeing as how its basically a contradiction in terms (womens (male ownership of women)) or where “female ownership” like “land ownership” can only mean women being owned by men and cannot mean anything else.
or where the relationship of “women” to “ownership” considering origin and historical meaning is dependent to such a degree that the very words/concepts cancel each other out (and where “womens land” would mean, essentially, womens women and/or lands land)? i dont know, im still working on that.
anyway, its a time-thing, and a word-thing. its a concept-thing, where we are dealing in ideas and concepts and, using words, getting to the root of our oppression so that we can liberate ourselves from male dominance. and chattel as a concept does not describe womens reality, or how men relate to us, or anything really — even more than that, it obscures our most basic truth(s) and this is probably deliberate. so we might as well get rid of it. women arent chattel to men, this is a wrongheaded concept, and this is obvious. we are something else.
*for more on the idea that women were the first “property” see gerda lerner, the creation of patriarchy. its worth the read.
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