‘Patriarchy is about power and control’

‘Patriarchy is about power and control’ October 20, 2012

Danielle @ From Two to One: “Slut-Shaming & Related Attempts to Silence Women”

In sum, patriarchy is about power and control. For some, they believe that men should be in power and control because they believe God or tradition or both say so. But it is still about power. Let’s not sugarcoat patriarchy with less offensive (or more confusing) terms like complementarianism that diminish women’s voices rather than amplify them.

… I also read a review of Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood that shockingly packed deep-rooted misogyny into a single sentence – even a single word. I’m not going to link to the site, but the author, “Will S.”, spits:

Frankly, I think she’s an annoying evil postmodern liberal femingelical [most revealingly reductive misogynist expletive imaginable] herself, and I’m not alone among Christians in disliking her.

This man calls himself a Christian.

I was not expecting that word, let alone expecting it come from a Christian’s lips in vitriolic attack of another image-bearer of God, another sister in Christ. But should I be surprised?

Cheryl B. Anderson: “Christians and Reproductive Justice: Hearing New Voices”

Conservative Christians, on the one hand, understand Judges 19 to condemn homosexuality, (focusing the intended act of the men in Gibeah) and, on the other hand, liberal Christians see Judges 19 as addressing the issue of hospitality (focusing on the host’s efforts to protect the Levite). Both interpretations are problematic for several reasons, but my point here is that both interpretations — whether done by conservatives or by liberals — do not address the damaging way the females are treated in the text. My fear is that, over time, ignoring the harm caused to women has become equated with the Christian tradition itself. Yet the need to support reproductive justice initiatives becomes clearer when we hear the voices of the women who are harmed by a lack of justice. If Christians are to hear the voices of women today, they need to start reading texts such as Judges 19 in ways in which a woman’s voice can be heard — or in ways that make us aware of the silence where her voice should be heard.

Richard Beck: “Life and Sex”

Concern about sex muddles the logic of the Pro-Life movement. It’s hard, from a policy stance, to be both for life and against the sexual revolution at the same time. For example, you want to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies but you don’t want tax dollars to go toward contraceptives. Or you start questioning the stories of rape victims to make sure the woman isn’t getting away with something. In your zeal to roll back the sexual revolution you become callous toward and skeptical of victims needing your help. That’s a tragic place for the church to be — calloused toward victims.

This isn’t to say that the conservative concern over sexual ethics is wrong-headed. It’s just that it has been folded into the Pro-Life conversation in a way that confuses the picture. You think you’re talking about life when we are often talking about sex (and its consequences). In my personal opinion, you can’t have it both ways from a policy perspective. If you want to protect life then that’s the priority, that’s what you have to do. Even if that means swallowing a bitter pill, like seeing tax dollars go toward contraception. And really, is that so hard a pill to swallow given how much of our tax dollars go to, say, defense spending? Last time I checked condoms were less expensive than bombs.

Caperton: “Safe and legal. And rare.”

So yes, we should want abortion to be rare — not because there’s anything wrong with it as a procedure, or because it’s horrific or universally traumatizing, but because we’d generally rather not have to pay money and undergo minimally invasive medical procedures if we can avoid them. Um, hi. It’s also often a sign that societally, we’ve missed a few holes we need to fill in. You don’t fix that by outlawing the solution — you fix that by fixing the problem, creating a world where women who don’t want to be pregnant don’t have to get pregnant and women who want to carry their pregnancies to term are able to do so. And until you’ve fixed that — and forevermore after you’ve fixed that — your only option is to protect the hell out of a woman’s right to choose what’s best for her life.

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  • WalterC

     I’m having a hard time finding a corroborating source for Dr Coutinho’s claim that Betty Friedan blocked his pill from being approved. Can you help me find some sources for that?

    Or, if they aren’t accessible online, at least help me connect the dots on his logic here; I don’t understand how “feminists”, even ones as famous as Betty Friedan, can unilaterally wield veto power over pharmaceuticals like this. If the translation is right, his ‘gossypium’ pill was already “ready for marketplace”; it had already been well-researched and had no negative side effects and was even easily reversible. I don’t see what a group of women at a UN conference could do to override the Health Ministries of every government in the world like that.

    (I’m assuming the word “boycott” is just a bad translation from the original language).

  • Daughter

     Why are contraceptives less effective when redundant?

  • Because sarcasm, that’s why.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Speaking without sarcasm, I think spermicides don’t react well in combination, and doubling up on condoms is also bad, but beyond that, barrier contraception is good, female hormonal contraception is good, male hormonal contraception is good, any two is better, any three would be best.

  • P J Evans

     ISTR that gossypium was considered Not Safe Enough For People,  as a drug.

  • Lori

    For the sake of pointing out that women aren’t monolithic in their opinions I’ll note that I have no problem with the word “bitch” per se, although obviously some used of it are Not OK. The c-word on the other hand? I’m fine with using it for the body part, but if you call me that we’re going to throw down. That’s on my list of things that are just right out.

  • WalterC

    So, was this determination made at the behest of the cabal of shrieking feminists, or what? Because Dr Coutinho had a really great story about a bull on birth control becoming a sex maniac, and I’d be disappointed to learn that Big Government’s burdensome regulations are keeping that from being used as scientific proof for drug trials.

  • If someone tries to use “cunt” as an insult, that tells us more about them than it does about their target.

    I have noticed that some men seem to think that it’ll automatically make us whimper and back down, and that picture is useful in disabusing them of that notion.

  • All seriousness in regards to the male contraception argument:  what I’ve heard is that pharmaceutical companies are pickier about stuff that goes in men’s bodies than they are about stuff that goes in women’s.  And also that many men are pickier about their own bodies than they are about women’s.

    Women have both more to lose (“there’s a risk, but I’ll take it because it’s my uterus on the line”) and are also subject to more shame about their genitals — it wasn’t too long ago that we were advised to wash out our ladybits with Lysol, after all.

    BTW, this article points to a petition about RISUG:  http://techcitement.com/culture/the-best-birth-control-in-the-world-is-for-men/#.UIS6zuSASyo

  • Daughter

     (Hitting her head, saying, “Duh!” and blushing in embarrassment)

  • P J Evans

     No, it had actual, measurable bad effects, mostly a serious drop in potassium levels; also 12% had unusual fatigue and 7% had digestive problems. Another version tended to produce permanent infertility. (Also, the toxic level is too close to the level that would have to be used.)
    It was WHO that recommended dropping the stuff.

  • If that stuff about RISUG is true, it sounds very noninvasive and completely safe. Unless “pickier about stuff” means that you’re some kind of absolute purist — as in, Christian Scientist pure –, I’m not sure “pickiness” is a good reason not to approve this drug. 

    I think that techcitement link might be onto something though. It’ll probably be hard to convince some drug company here (at least in the US) to spend their time and their money putting this through FDA trials if there’s no real way to make money on it (apparently the syringe is the most expensive part of RISUG, and the procedure lasts for a decade). I think if the female birth control pill only had to be taken once every ten years and cost a nickel, it probably would have gotten held up even more.

  • Lori

    If someone tries to use “cunt” as an insult, that tells us more about them than it does about their target.  

    True of many insults.

    I have noticed that some men seem to think that it’ll automatically make
    us whimper and back down, and that picture is useful in disabusing them
    of that notion.  

    It has the opposite effect on me (I have a rather amusing memory of one asshat in particular finding that out the hard way).

    Like I said, opinions differ. Everyone is entitled to their own and I’m not the lady language police. I just wanted to point out that thinking bitch is totally out of bounds is not a universally held position and neither is the opinion that cunt is fine/empowering/reclaimed or reclaimable or whatever.

  • P J Evans

     It’s a good thing I never heard that Lysol recommendation. I think I’d have suggested that the person making the recommendation try it first.

  • Tapetum

    Didn’t work for my husband, but it’s been very effective for a couple of his gaming buddies.

    Of course, at one point he called me during a game to ask me to e-mail something that he needed to DM, and chatted with me while I hunted it up and sent it. According to him, after we said goodbye, one of the other gamers commented “Wow! You talk to your wife almost like she’s your equal!” So not so much the DnD, I’m suspecting.

  •  There are, in fact, real-for-real  feminists who object to the pill in the first place on the principle that its purpose is (they say) specifically to make women more available to men for sex. That pre-pill, fear-of-pregnancy was a force women could use to keep men who wanted sex from them in check.

    Others, of course, praised the pill largey because *it gave power to women in a situation (they perceived) women as not having any power in*. That line of thinking could object to giving men a counter-argument to “I can’t have sex with you because I’m not on the pill” (assuming this is a way to avoid having unwanted sex which carries a lower social cost than just saying “I don’t want to have sex with you”).

    In other words, being a feminist does not automatically make you sex-positive, and when you’re sex-negative, a lot of sex-related arguments boil down not to “We want equality between the genders” but rather “We grudgingly accept that this is necessary in this particular case, but disapprove as a general rule”

    If you think that the reason the Pill is good is that it “levels the playing field”, then granting it to men as well *un-levels* it.

  • Tapetum

     Mmm. Good point. I don’t play DnD with my husband, not because I don’t like the game, but because we can’t seem to put together a decent sized group that doesn’t include misogynistic creeps I won’t have in the house more than once. I like DnD just fine, and a bunch of other table-tops as well.

  • I think we may be talking past each other somewhat.  The way I saw it, the picture I linked to wasn’t supposed to be an actual “here’s how we as feminists should actually view this kind of speech”, but rather a sarcastic way to mock misogynists.

  • Uh, someone who’s suggesting that women be passive-aggressive rather than state clearly what they do and don’t want doesn’t sound like much of a feminist, let alone a “real-for-real” one.  Perhaps you have some citations?

    From what I’ve read, the argument that sex-negative feminists like Andrea Dworkin tend to use is that women should simply refuse all heterosexual sex ever.  Less “Oh Hank, I’d love to, but we don’t want a baby” and more “Keep your tool of oppression away from me”.

  • Lori

    I understand. I just wouldn’t personally use that method for mocking misogynists.

    The point of my comment was really more general though, just riffing off your post.

  • Interesting fact – in Britain that word (which is considered the worst swear word is so taboo I can’t bring myself to type it) is generally used against men not women.

  • And in the southwest Pacific, too.  I have a friend-of-a-friend on Facebook who slings the C-word around with great abandon, and it always brings me to a stop each time I see it.  Even after having had a girlfriend in New Zealand who loathed the P-word, but loved the C-word.  It was awkward.

  • Carstonio

     My feeling is that “bitch” and “cunt” shouldn’t be used by men, for the same reason that Richard Pryor’s routines would be offensive if delivered by a white comedian, or if Jeff Foxworthy’s would be if delivered by a comedian from New York or California. (Not that Foxworthy is Pryor’s artistic equal.) It’s impossible for men to use those insult words ironically. I might say the same for women who would call a man a “dick” except that the power imbalance already favors the men, and that word doesn’t shame male sexuality the way those other words shame female sexuality.

  • Paul Durant

    He wasn’t claiming they unilaterally blocked it from being approved, but they did vehemently oppose it, and it certainly wasn’t because they thought it unsafe.

  • Carstonio

     Interesting, but not any better. It’s the equivalent of using “pussy” against men who are perceived as lacking fortitude.

  •  Not really – it’s curious but I don’t think the c-word’s original meaning comes into its use as a swear any more.

    What’s interesting to me is that English has such biological swears to start with.

    Much of our worst language is bodily functions and the bits of the body (both male and female)  involved in them. Nevermind misogyny I think there’s an almost dualist hate of our physicality to it.

  • banancat

    Yes, men are called that to imply that they are like women, which is meant to be insulting. It ends up being insulting to women instead by saying we’re inherently bad and it’s bad to be like us, just like how it’s wrong to use gay as an insult and that isn’t mitigated because it’s usually used to insult heteros.

  • WalterC

     Yes, he said that they shouted him down at his speech at the World , but that on its own doesn’t explain why it isn’t on the shelves. The impression I got from his words and from the video is that gossypiumwas used to make a safe and effective drug but it never came to market in the West because of feminist opposition. I’m having a hard time finding any verification that this event occurred (where Betty Friedan called for a feminist boycott of Dr Coutinho’s invention) or any logical reason why this event would have stopped gossypium or even really slowed it down at all. I mean, does it really mean anything for women to boycott a pill intended exclusively for men?

  • Carstonio

     I’ve read that Catholics and Protestants in the US tend to focus on different taboos in language, with one more scatalogical than the other, but I couldn’t tell you which was which. In any case, I’ve heard the c-word used as you describe only in UK shows and movies – in the US it’s almost always used to insult a woman.

  • I still can’t get over calling a drug “gossypium”. It’s almost like they wanted to call it “gossip” which is a trait usually attrtibuted to women.

  • Liralen

    I actually found Marc’s comment funny enough to send to my husband, whom I met while playing online games.   I agree that there are plenty of us female gamers, and in a “it takes one to know one” fashion, I’m guessing I meet other female gamers more often then males do.  But we’re still out-numbered by males, so it’s not easy for every male who prefers female company in games to find it.  So much so that I feel sorry for them (aggro wife/girlfriend being a meme, as you probably know) and can pretty much ignore the misogynists.  There are plenty of men who enjoy the company of women.

    BTW, guys playing female characters have been a tremendous blessing.  Not only do they get first hand experience of harassment, the harassers are alot more cautious now than they were in the early days.  People who either believe all female characters are really females or conversely, don’t believe there are female players, are generally viewed as n00bs and mocked.

  • Tricksterson

    I think it all stems back to the beginning of D&D in the 70s when the “girls/women don’t do RPGs” was mostly true.  Of course some of that was that the early players treated it like a boys club while at the same time whining that girls didn’t pay them any attention.  Nowadays with the advent of “geek chic”, LARPing  and online gaoming a lot more women participate.

  • Joshua

    In New Zealand that particular word is used to insult either gender, or of course inanimate objects. When reading comments on this blog on the topic, there seemed to be an implication that in the US its use was as gender-specific as its origin, and I was never sure if I’d got that right.

    So now I know.

  • If anyone is thinking of trying it: the aloe is there because the stuff irritates the skin like pretty much nothing else you are liable to willingly apply to your skin. It can also cause inexplicable garlic breath.

  • P J Evans

    Garlic breath is a feature of DMSO (the active ingredient is sulfur, in both cases). Or possibly a bug, depending on whether you’re scaring off vampires or not. *g*

  • WalterC

    I take the blame for that. I didn’t know the actual name of the drug and I was too lazy to look it up. It’s derived from a plant in the subgenus of gossypium (cotton) but I don’t think that gossypium is the actual name that the scientist chose for it.