Protection vs. Freedom: Third Wave Feminist Goals and Methods

pen writing

If you ever want an articulate and precise argument, go to a philosopher.  A good philosophical argument will leave you intrigued, rather than confused, because it will define its terms clearly.  This argument about why the methods of Feminist Egalitarianism and Christian Complementarianism both boil down to Chivalry and Patriarchy is a good example.  Andy Rogers defines his terms as system, goal, and method.

A system is the context in which you are working–the facts that you are assuming to be the case for the sake of addressing a specific goal. I hope that goal and method are self-explanatory . It is generally better to first start with goal and system, and then figure out the best method for attaining said goal given the system.

Using this model, I will lay out the groundwork for my own feminist philosophy and standpoint, while heavily disputing Andy’s claim that Chivalry and Patriarchy are suitable feminist methods.

The System

Instead of using the word patriarchy to define the system as I usually do, since the word is otherwise defined by Andy for the purposes of his argument, I will focus instead on the Power Disparity and the Value Disparity between men and women.  The Power Disparity consists of unequal Raw Power and Economic Power, borrowing from Andy again, as well as unequal Creative Cultural Power.  These are his definitions for the first two:

By Raw Power I mean that men are somehow physically stronger, better fighters, better armed, or anything else that gives them the brute power to murder, beat, or rape women. By Economic Power I mean the power men have that comes from controlling industries and social structures minus their Raw Power.

I don’t think that Economic Power fully encompasses the control of social structures the way Andy says it does, so I redefine Economic Power as the monopolizing of higher-paying careers and add Creative Cultural Power, by which I mean that men have more power to create and produce culture.  The majority of people who write and direct movies, control marketing and advertising, hold political office, make legal judgments and write laws are men.

The Power Dynamic is what controls the Value Disparity.  Inevitably, the culture overwhelmingly created by men prioritizes the needs of men*, centering men as default human and devaluing women.  The devaluing of women encourages the wielding of Raw Power and Economic Power, results in low self esteem in women, hatred and disregard of women, and bullying of men who show a “feminine” side.

The Goal

Andy writes:

Both the Complementarians and the Feminists share the general goal of seeking to create certain rights and privileges for women in the context of the system outlined earlier. Although they differ in their goals of which specific rights and privileges to create for women, I will show that their method of pursuing these goals is essentially the same.

I don’t agree with Andy’s assessment of the goals of Feminists.  The concept of “rights and privileges for women in the context of the system” contains a tragic flaw.  No matter which specific rights and privileges you create for women, they will be awarded as a means of lessening the burden of the system.  They will not provide freedom from the system.

My goal as a feminist is to free women from the Value Disparity.  Give women respect, value women’s internal experiences, promote women’s self-esteem, and give women valid choices.  Part of that is adjusting the Power Disparity which controls the Value Disparity, but a Raw Power advantage is not easily overcome, nor is an Economic Power advantage, what with the male history and tradition in the workplace, the conflict of raising families, the complications surrounding sex discrimination and the ease or difficulty of career choices. In my mind, the best and quickest way to begin balancing the Value Disparity is through Creative Cultural Power.  

The Method

Andy offers three methods for conquering the system as he defines it: 1) Equalize the power dynamic (easier said than done, as I outlined above), 2) Chivalry, and 3) Patriarchy.  Andy explains the latter two:

ChivalryNeutralize the Power Dynamic. Teach men not to rape, murder, or attack women in order to neutralize the Raw Power disparity and/or teach men to use their economic power to help women so as to neutralize the Economic Power disparity. I will call this method Chivalry because it fits with the general idea of teaching men not to act on their power for their own gain but to use it to help others.

Patriarchy: Use some men to protect women from the other men. This might require a change in intent but it deserves a separate category because it doesn’t necessarily require that men have good intentions overall, only that some men have good intentions and use their power to protect women from the men with bad intentions.

I don’t agree with the assessment that feminism supports Chivalry and Patriarchy as methods. The reason is my goal: there’s a huge difference between Protection and Freedom. Patriarchy and chivalry seek to protect women, while feminism seeks to free women. Feminists often focus on forms of protection because freedom includes being free of physical oppression, but laws which force men’s hand or require chivalry and patriarchy are inferior to cultural material which alters men’s intent.

The problem with chivalry and patriarchy is the lack of respect. The Men’s Eagle Council writes:

Respect means seeing another person as an equal. It means recognizing that their internal experience is just as real and valid as one’s own. And perhaps most importantly, it means valuing their agency: their capacity and right to make their own choices.

Chivalry and Patriarchy value women for their biological and archetypal usefulness, i.e. giving birth, raising children, and providing comfort. Chivalry and Patriarchy do not value women’s internal experiences or their “capacity and right to make their own choices.” Chivalry and Patriarchy assume they know best and prioritize their own internal experience and decision making in order to preserve women, their prized possessions. This is not an acceptable method because the end result is not freedom, it is oppression for the sake of protection.

Margaret Atwood wrote a brilliant dystopian feminist novel in the 80’s called “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which hinted at this very idea.  Some extreme feminists claim to want protections for women, just like the system already requires.  Feminism so far has succeeded at removing the protections for women inherent in the system, but it has not yet provided the freedom to replace it.

My method as a feminist is to create and produce counter-cultural messages which encourage respect for and value of women by demonstrating female agency and decision making, prioritizing and validating women’s internal experiences, and allowing women voices and the chance to have their voices heard.  I am interested in the creation and promotion of alternate images which empower women, not to be like men, but to feel worthy and valuable the way they are.  I hope that this cultural production will not only foster self-esteem and a feeling of freedom and opportunity for girls and women, but will raise the level of respect our culture has for women.  To emphasize:

Respect means seeing another person as an equal. It means recognizing that their internal experience is just as real and valid as one’s own. And perhaps most importantly, it means valuing their agency: their capacity and right to make their own choices.

Thanks, Men’s Eagle Council.  This is my feminist philosophy, as outlined by my understanding of the system, my goal, and my methods.  I tell you so that you can understand better what I aim to do, and so that you can help if you feel called.

*Even the needs marketed to women as their own are actually needs of men.  Fashion and beauty, for example.  These days women are told, at best, that they need fashion and beauty to feel happy and confident, and at worst, that they need it to attract men.  But even happiness and confidence become just another way to attract men and live up to the feminine standard of pretty, low-maintenance decoration

21 responses to “Protection vs. Freedom: Third Wave Feminist Goals and Methods

  1. This is very articulate and well done. Thanks for taking the time to write a careful response. I wrote a follow up to the Feminists for Patriarchy article that addresses some of the things you and others said in the comments about social and cultural power. It should be published Saturday at libertywithoutapologies.com

  2. You are kind of self-contradictory here. Let me explain:
    You say:
    “My goal as a feminist is to free women from the Value Disparity. 1# Give women respect, #2 value women’s internal experiences, #3 promote women’s self-esteem, #4 and give women valid choices.”

    You also say:
    “Respect means seeing another person as an equal. It means recognizing that their internal experience is just as real and valid as one’s own. And perhaps most importantly, it means valuing their agency: their capacity and right to make their own choices.”

    Problem #1. You want to GIVE them respect: which means you think that they do not already possess it, nor that they have ability to earn it. This is a discredit to every woman that DOES have, and has earned, respect. Secondly, you are applying this to a broad class of citizenry, to which it is not equally applicable.

    Problem #2: “value women’s internal experiences”. Who can place a value on an internal experience? Any internal experience that is not directly relate-able to another person for them to directly experience is irrelevant in terms of value to anyone except the person experiencing it. In other words, the value you place on your own personal experience will never be as high, or higher to the value that I place on my own experiences, and can not be because I can not experience what you have. I can appreciate the fact that you had them, I can even trust and value the knowledge or wisdom that you gained from them, provided that you can either directly demonstrate or in some fashion transmit that knowledge or wisdom. But the experience itself will forever be beyond anyone else’s ability to place a value on. This is not only true because experiences are not shared, but also because the perception of the experience is different between people. For example, since you often discuss rape, to some women it is a damn-near life ending event, for others it is like ‘meh, It happened and I am moving on.’ This is not to say that either case was last tragic, but simply to illustrate how the same even can be valued differently depending on the mental framework of the individual.

    #3: This is no problem at all, and I really support your doing this. I wish more people would try to build others up rather than tearing them down.

    #4: “Give women valid choices”, This is the one I have them most issues with. For starters, see problem number one because it applies here too. This is also in direct contradiction to the definition of respect that you posted, because you are invalidating all of the choices that women already make and implying that they do not have the agency to make them by saying that they have to be “given valid choices”.

    In short, your feminist goal here(as worded, not necessarily as intended) is to show gross disrespect to women by saying that they do not have choices, do not have the agency to make choices, do not have respect already, and do not have valid experiences unless those experiences have somehow been ratified by someone else.

    is the choice to raise a family somehow less valid than the choice to be a public servant or ceo? Is the choice to operate a business less valid than the choice to be a cultural icon? And who are you, or anyone else for that matter, to try and say what is or is not valid, acceptable, or proper for anyone else? Why should my wife, who is a home maker, college student, and very talented seamstress, be made to feel inferior to anyone else because they do not approve of the choices that she has made? (Yes, that has happened before, on numerous occasions by feminist of all sorts.) Why should my daughter, the ballerina girly girl feel bad about her own personal preferences because they do not meet some ideological criteria that someone else has constructed as a measure of validity?

    I am sure that someone will say that I am ‘hatin’ on you, or ‘raining on your parade’ as they have in the past, and I know that tone of voice is completely lacking in message boards, but please do not take any of this as antagonistic, it is just polite disagreement.

    • #4: “Give women valid choices”, This is the one I have them most issues with. For starters, see problem number one because it applies here too. This is also in direct contradiction to the definition of respect that you posted, because you are invalidating all of the choices that women already make and implying that they do not have the agency to make them by saying that they have to be “given valid choices”.

      In short, your feminist goal here(as worded, not necessarily as intended) is to show gross disrespect to women by saying that they do not have choices, do not have the agency to make choices, do not have respect already, and do not have valid experiences unless those experiences have somehow been ratified by someone else.

      is the choice to raise a family somehow less valid than the choice to be a public servant or ceo? Is the choice to operate a business less valid than the choice to be a cultural icon? And who are you, or anyone else for that matter, to try and say what is or is not valid, acceptable, or proper for anyone else? Why should my wife, who is a home maker, college student, and very talented seamstress, be made to feel inferior to anyone else because they do not approve of the choices that she has made? (Yes, that has happened before, on numerous occasions by feminist of all sorts.) Why should my daughter, the ballerina girly girl feel bad about her own personal preferences because they do not meet some ideological criteria that someone else has constructed as a measure of validity?

      Perfectly summarized. I think the biggest problem and obstacle for women reaching true agency is the collective mentality. Feminists do not speak for me, nor do I speak for them. When women seize to speak for other women, and stop defining what freedom is and so forth, only then can women have true pure choices. And as a result, only then can women actually reach true agency.

    • 1: To want to give somebody respect is respectful. Respect is not something people possess, like a thing in their pocket. It is something in the air between us. It is a way we treat each other. And no, I don’t think that women are respected by our culture (however much individual women may be respected) for the reasons I outlined and will emphasize again, not so that you change your opinion, but so that you understand that I did not contradict myself.

      2: You say value cannot be placed on internal experiences by anyone other than the person experiencing it. Generally, I agree. But that is an impossible ideal to fulfill. Our culture already DOES place value on internal experiences based on the ones we choose to validate and the ones we choose to ignore, via movies, news, political discussion, etc. Validation means acknowledging an experience as understandable and acceptable or even simply worth paying attention to, regardless of one’s agreement or approval. For instance The things our culture labels “women’s experiences” are either respected to the point of worship because they support the “social order” (i.e. childbirth, homemaking, supporting people in their life, suffering in silence) or they are disregarded and diminished as childish, of small importance, non-universal, not understandable, irrational, or even stupid. The things our society labels “female priorities and experiences” (aside from family, which is respected and also considered important to men) like shopping, fashion, romance, compassion, and communication, to name a few, are also labeled impractical or marginal. Movies about female friendships or romantic comedies get labeled “chick flicks,” are never up for Oscar nomination or given any kind of critical regard, and are considered something men only watch with women to be nice, because they can’t relate. They are considered simply entertaining, silly romps, not exploring any of the deeper meanings of life. On the flip side, movies about male friendships are called universal, are highly regarded and praised, and are meant to be enjoyed by women as well as men. That is because we place a higher value on the experiences in the movie because it is about men and not women.

      3: Thank you. I often wish you would build up my blog more rather than tearing it down, since you seem to want all the same things that I do. You just think the world already has them and I think it doesn’t. Maybe your objections to my arguments are a little counter productive?

      4: The key word here is “choice.” I think you thought I meant “options.” I don’t mean valid options, I mean valid choices. That means the choices women make should be less condemning and more supported. Each option should be presented Like you said, who are we to say what choices are valid? Women’s choices are so scrutinized and judged by our society, no matter what they are. Our society thinks it’s okay to sit around talking about women’s choices in ways we would never talk about a man’s choices. Life choices are supposed to be personal. The American Dream is not just a man’s dream, and not all women have the version B dream of “be the sidekick.” For example, it shouldn’t be so hard for a woman to want to have a career AND a family. We should support that choice by giving women (and men too) more vacation time to spend with kids and better child care options, and by trusting their abilities to work even though they have children. The expectation that women are only good workers when they are childless is unfair and limiting for women who want to raise children but also have dreams of their own. Right now society says to women, “sure you have a choice! you can totally have a career! but we won’t trust or believe you can do anything until you prove it beyond all doubt. AND if you’re pregnant or thinking of having a family we probably won’t hire you because we’ll lose money.” So women have to choose between career and family OR face the ever challenging, ever talked about “balancing act” which has never been talked about for men even though men have had families and careers simultaneously for centuries. That is what I mean by “valid choices.” I mean women should be able to make any choice they want and have it be supported, or at the very least, not constantly challenged and condemned. I have no problem with your wife’s choice to be a homemaker and seamstress. My mother made the same choice and was very happy. That should not be judged, but the choice shouldn’t have to be so high pressure, with impossible stakes either. This is just one example of a choice. There are many others I won’t go into in comment form.

      Finally, your most gross disagreement, and the insulting suggestion that I disrespect and invalidate women by wanting to give women respect and validate them. Huh. It’s really a bit of wordplay, isn’t it? I admire your staunch efforts to always twist my words, however baffling it continues to be. Please allow me to explain myself one final time:

      If a lawyer requests a lower bail for his client because he thinks his client deserves it, would the judge object and say, “now wait a minute, you don’t think your client is deserving enough to already HAVE a lower bail? By asking for a lower bail, you must think he doesn’t deserve a lower bail, or else he would already have it.” That makes no sense. It ignores reality and it’s pure gibberish. I want society to give respect to women and to validate women’s choices, whatever they are. Personally, I already respect women and validate women’s choices, but I don’t think society does, in the ways I have addressed above. That is not me being disrespectful to women. That is me saying that society is disrespectful to women. That is me looking at reality and seeing a disparity between what is and what should be. I recognize that women have agency, but society does not, and not only that, society constantly challenges and oppresses women’s agency, making it harder for women to express their agency without backlash. Me requesting to stop the backlash and allow women to express their agency is not suggesting that they don’t already have agency; it is suggesting that their agency has been blocked and ignored too often by other forces. Nor am I “invalidating all the choices women already make.” I am not suggesting women make different choices necessarily. I want women to choose to do whatever they want. I am suggesting society provide women with easier choices so that the choices women make will be because of what they truly want and not because it was the only realistic or plausible option. I want the options to be plausible so that the choices are not based on society’s pressure but on the woman’s needs.

      I will add only one more thing, which is that men deserve all of the same treatment I advocate for women. In some cases men already receive it, but not in others. I am an activist for human rights for women. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in the same human rights for men. But it does mean I am not an activist for human rights for men, because I believe that men already have enough advocates and I believe that my inclusion of men in my arguments would take away from my discussion of women. If you or anyone else is concerned about the human rights of men, I have no problem with that, and I will support all activist efforts elsewhere, as long as they aren’t purely anger based and blaming feminism.

      That is all I’m going to say on the matter. Might I suggest that you can continue to disagree with me without commenting here in a provocative manner? I’m not sure what your goals are, but it seems they could be accomplished better elsewhere.

      • I started to write a lengthy reply to this, but obviously it is not what you want. I originally came to your site with the hope of engaging in some meaningful discourse, not because I thought we would agree on everything, but because by trying to understand how and why you think I gain perspective on the situation as a whole.

        I do not agree with everything that you say, and when I do, I try(as I did in this post) to give positive feedback on those points. When I don’t I try to give constructive criticism by not only saying that I disagree, but how, why, and what could be done to find some commonality. Granted, some of that criticism has been more heated than others, particularly when you struck some nerve from my own past. I am human, so are you. That is not tearing you down, though, it is looking for ways to expand on your (apparently) very narrow world view.

        If you wish to have ‘yes men’ follow your blog and tell you how great you are instead of people willing to challenge, question, and ‘provoke’ meaningful discourse that might actually make the sheeple think and act like reasonable people, than I will of course respect your wishes and never post nor read your blog again. It is your blog, and if sycophants are what you are searching for, then I can assure you that you will find no shortage of them on the internet. Sadly, this is typical of my experience with ideological fundamentalist. They do not do well with criticism, whether that criticism is meant to be constructive or not.

        I think you should listen to the other commentator who said:

        ” I think the biggest problem and obstacle for women reaching true agency is the collective mentality. Feminists do not speak for me, nor do I speak for them. When women seize to speak for other women, and stop defining what freedom is and so forth, only then can women have true pure choices. And as a result, only then can women actually reach true agency.”

        You are championing a victim that does not exist. Keep tilting at windmills and telling yourself that you are the knight in shining armor, if it makes you feel better.

        • You originally came to this blog under the disguise of meaningful discourse, but it soon became clear that you just wanted to be stubborn and nitpick at word choice. If you wanted to have “meaningful” discourse you would have paid more attention to the intended meaning and less attention to the rhetoric, which is admittedly flawed on occasion, no doubt because I am a student, and human no less. As a student I appreciate discourse about my studies, but not discourse telling me my studies are pointless and unnecessary. As someone who is supposedly so sensitive to what will potentially offend others, you are remarkably insensitive yourself. As someone apparently so keen on discourse, you are remarkably unable to listen and move on, a key part of a flowing conversation. You say that your heated criticism is not tearing me down, but merely expanding on my apparently narrow world view. I have to laugh, because all along you’ve been telling me that my criticism of patriarchy is tearing men down, even after I’ve insisted it is actually about expanding our culture’s narrow world view.

          I don’t want a sycophant, but I also don’t want a perpetual antagonizer either. Especially one who pretends to want productive discourse when he probably knows full well how unproductive debate is when it never ends or changes. Excuse me for getting a little heated now and then myself. Your honest, unconcealed disrespect is refreshing after all those sickeningly condescending attempts to be civil and polite. So thank you for that.

          I also appreciated the Don Quixote reference. Cheers to good literature! Here’s a direct quote from its musical adaptation: “Too much sanity may be madness! But maddest of all—to see life as it is and not as it should be.”

          • You’re welcome. Glad you got the reference. As for your musical quote, I would say that the maddest of all would be not to see either, and best of all is to see both. This world is fucked up, and there is no doubt about it. But it also has such beautiful potential. I am realistic about where I would like to see it go, and I can see a fairly simple path to get there, even if that path is not the easy or attractive one and so will not likely ever be taken. The very first step is to understand that you have no right to anyone else’s life, in any way, shape, or form, nor do they have any right to yours. If you considered the far reaching implications of that very first step, you would realize why it will never happen, and why I hold out so little hope for human society.

            I think you would find if you looked that the thing that I criticized most was your continual use of that outdated, ineffective, misleading word, ‘patriarchy’. Yes, I hate that word. Yes, I grumbled about it every time you used it. It is insulting, you have been told repeatedly, by myself and others, that it is insulting, yet you continue to use it. So the only possible reasoning is that you either are intentionally being insulting, or that you can not be bothered to think beyond the rhetoric of your ideology, neither of which are things I respect.

            You, personally as a human being and intelligent individual, I can(and do in many ways) respect. Some of your dialog is quite interesting and quite refreshing, not to mention that you occasionally offer insights that I had not considered before. Hence the reason I kept(keep) coming back. Some of the ideas that you espouse, however, I certainly do not, and never will, respect. If you take the disrespect of an idea as disrespect for you, that is a personal choice.

            As for being unable to move on, I think perhaps that the nature of a blog in and of itself is to blame. You write an article on a topic, and I generally try to keep posts for that particular article on that topic. Some themes do carry over, like your repeated use of the antiquated ‘patriarchy’ concept. So those things will keep cropping back up. I do not mind at all when you get heated, I have no use for yes men, and I find the arguments to be both refreshing and encouraging. Yes, you read that right, encouraging.

            The thing about fighting is, while it seems unproductive, there is an energy to it that is unmistakable. A person that doesn’t struggle, that doesn’t fight, doesn’t care. So while you take my antagonizing(your word, not mine) and knit picking over words to be discouraging and tearing you down, I will offer you a different perspective. I actually care enough about the topic to want to get it right, and I am willing to debate, argue, and fight as needed to do that. We both actually have a lot of common goals. We both actually want the same thing for women. Our primary differences boil down to two things:

            1. I am not willing to sacrifice other peoples freedom or agency in order to give women more(as if that were even possible). Women are not unique, they are not special, they are just humans, and deserve to be treated as such. You, on the other hand, are perfectly willing to sacrifice the will, agency, and freedom of others in order to give women more.

            2. I hold women accountable for their own choices and actions, acknowledge that they have the full right and responsibility for those actions and choices, and expect them to take the consequences of the choices that they make come what may, good or bad.You on the other hand, want to ‘give’ women things without demanding that they uphold the responsibility that they entail and without holding them accountable for their choices or the consequences of them. That is how we treat small children, hence my repeated statement that you both infantalize them and demonstrate disrespect for them.

            I would like to think that I am wrong, but you say For example:

            “Even the needs marketed to women as their own are actually needs of men. Fashion and beauty, for example. These days women are told, at best, that they need fashion and beauty to feel happy and confident, and at worst, that they need it to attract men. But even happiness and confidence become just another way to attract men and live up to the feminine standard of pretty, low-maintenance decoration.”

            It is not men saying this. We don’t want you to be happy and confident so that you will attract us; we want you to be happy and confident so that we don’t have to be bothered listening to a never ending stream of inane insecurities brought on by unrealistic expectations of yourselves and us. Not to mention that most women’s magazines (one of the prime media outlets for this type of issue) are actually ran by women, such as Ellen Levine, Roberta Myers, etc. These are the WOMEN that are giving other women self-esteem issues and identity complexes. No doubt you will find someway to claim it is the non-existent patriarchy, but apparently there is nothing I can do to get you to revise your view on that. Men do not NEED you to where expensive make-up and crap. If you bothered to ask a man, he would likely tell you that he actually prefers not to see all of that. Not that good hygiene or personal maintenance should fall by the wayside, but the extreme to which modern women go is ridiculous. Not only do many men find it unattractive, but many also find it to be dishonest, misleading, and ‘false advertising’, if you will. You are not being yourself and think that we are too stupid to no better..why should we show respect for that? And why don’t you look at who actually BUYS those magazines? Does the person buying into an idea hold no culpability in your worldview? Do you not see that magazines like ‘Maxim’ and ‘Mens Health’ along with Hollywood icons are doing the same thing to men? This is not patriarchy, it is a social disease where we place value on superficial concepts like appearances and likability over a persons character, regardless of gender.

            Also, for the record, you and I hold fundamentally different views on concepts such as respect and love. You seem to think they it is things that can be given, even though you freely admit that they are intangible. In short, you view them as nouns. I, on the other hand, view them as verbs. Respect, love, honor, integrity, and other such concepts are not things that you possess, they are things that you DO, they are action words. You do not give respect, you show respect through your actions. You do not give love, you show love by how you treat people. You do not have integrity, you demonstrate it by always standing up for your beliefs and doing the right thing, no matter what. So, no, you can not GIVE anyone respect. If YOU can, please send me a box of it. I am sure you can get my email and I will give you my address and if needs be I am willing to pay postage.

            Yes, I knit pick on words because, as I have said repeatedly, words have power, not just because of the ideas that they convey, but because words actually give shape to our thoughts. If you spoke a different language, the language itself would shape your thought processes. Your choice of words betrays your thoughts and your thinking process. Of course, it is a given that we are all human, and we will all at times demonstrate a poor choice of words, but there is no reason to doggedly continue to use the wrong words when multiple people have pointed out to you how those words are wrong.

          • Your worldview is refreshing in a sea of people far less thoughtful and insightful. I can tell that you are helping make the world as it should be in your daily life and that gladdens me. I am grateful that you care about the topics enough to “get it right.” Caring is absolutely the first step in making change, and it is terrifyingly absent these days. So much apathy in people of all ages, genders, etc. So I am glad you care. Obviously, I care too or I wouldn’t take the effort to write and maintain this blog for such very little reward.

            Your hang up with the word “patriarchy” is something I can’t change my rhetoric for. If it were nearly any other word I would be happy to adjust my vocabulary, as generally synonyms and alternate phrasings are in abundance, but this word is a cornerstone of my philosophy that I cannot compromise. There is no other word I know of that describes as concisely and accurately what I want to describe, and to beat around the bush writing a paragraph every time when I could write just one word is wasteful. I do apologize that it insults you. I do not wish or mean to insult you, and I usually take extra care to qualify my use of the word and keep people such as yourself in mind, but if my assurances are not enough, there’s nothing else I can do to appease you and still maintain my own self respect. This is a blog for me to share my philosophy and observations. I can’t very well capsize my own ship.

            We vehemently disagree about the implications of the word patriarchy. You read blame in the definition where I don’t. You read fault where I see a structure. Is a king at fault for monarchy? If someone hates monarchy, do they hate and blame the king? Maybe some people feel that way, but does the word monarchy place that blame, or is that something people do? Is Congress and the President at fault for democracy? Are the people? Maybe if somebody hates democracy, they might blame the President or Congress, but blame is not inherent in the word democracy simply because it allocates power. These examples go on and on. The food chain, theocracy, republic, hierarchy, capitalism, socialism, anarchy. Power structures are a way of life, and it is only when people become dissatisfied with those structures that we begin to find fault and place blame. We the people, not the words themselves. Blame and fault can become a connotation, but they can not become part of the original definition. And we can temper and clarify and abolish connotations if we are mindful of what they are. I try to do so, because I do care about men just as much as I care about women. I myself identify as genderless, or androgynous, so I feel kinship with both men and women, and have never meant to show anything but caring and consideration for both. I am frustrated with you for not being able to accept that caring and consideration for what it is, but what can I do? I can’t make everybody happy.

            I know you also disagree that such a patriarchal power structure even exists, and God knows I don’t have the time or energy to waste trying to convince you, nor do I need to, since you already live your life as respectfully and mindfully as I could ever ask. I do know how to be realistic. I too believe that argument is evident of passion and caring, which I want to foster, but I would much rather use my passion and caring arguing with somebody who actually needs or is open to different perspectives and ideas. A Democrat running for office never specifically targets staunch life long Republicans. That would be a waste of resources. Ze targets the swing voters.

            That’s why I asked you to take your disagreement elsewhere, not because I don’t appreciate discourse, but because as long as it is about the word and concept of patriarchy, we both just need to live with the other’s disagreement and stop beating a dead horse.

          • Hrmm, the reply link went away on your last message. Oh well.

            The thing is, in your examples of Democracy, Monarchy, and others, who else has the power to change the system other than those ‘in power’? In a power dichotomy such as you describe, there are only two viable options, either the people with power abdicate that power to those without, or the people without coup an take the power from those that have. There is no middle ground because it defines power as something tangible. And I think this is getting to the root of our disagreement over the patriarchy.

            What power can men give women? Which men must willfully abdicate their power, or which men are women going to lead a coup against?

            I understand that you are saying that you see patriarchy as a word along the same lines as a socio-political construct, but there is one tremendous difference. In all other examples, there is a clear delineation of who has the power, authority, and responsibility, and what roles that they possess. In the textbook definition of patriarchy, this is true as well. Authority passes from father to son, and in the household, the family Patriarch has authority over all others inside the house. In short, the patriarch was synonymous with a King, inside his own domain, hence the old phrase ‘king of the castle’ and ‘a man’s home is his castle’.

            In that case, when you say ‘the patriarchy’, you are referring to both the power structure and the leader, the patriarch.

            The issue I have is that you define no power structure, you define no patriarch, you define nothing at all other than this vague notion that some men somewhere hold some power over some women. It sounds like a Dept. of Homeland security announcement about a terror threat.”We don’t know when, we don’t where, we don’t know how, but a terrorist threat is imminent.” Even worse is that most non-biased statistical data actually disproves a lot of claims. I presented statistics and research papers disproving that the majority of rape victims were female, you ignored them. I’ve provided statistics regarding the fact that women are now the majority of college graduates, you ignored them. I’ve provided statistics that women hold nearly equal status in businesses, you ignored them. Roughly 20% of both the senate and congress are women currently. Considering that only roughly 16% RUN for office on any given year, the numbers line up with about what you would expect.(Fact check it yourself)

            So, you say in your arguments that it is because of the patriarchy that women are not being more assertive in assuming power. (See my point #2 above) Where to my way of thinking, women are simply reaping what they sow. They chose not to compete, so there was no chance for them to win. Of those that have competed, some won, some lost, including not only women, but women of ethnic minorities.

            My point is, you are arguing against a power structure that does not exist as you describe it. Power is not being handed down from male to male, it is being handed down to whomever reaches out to take it and wins. That is not a patriarchy. It is the logical consequence of choices that are made. If the cornerstone of your philosophy is based on an erroneous ideal, what does that say about everything built upon that cornerstone? How can the building stand when the foundation is weak?

            If you respect women, you must, to use your own quote, “value[ing] their agency: their capacity and right to make their own choices”, even if their choices do not support your philosophical ideology. Some women choose not to participate in certain things, respect that choice. Some women choose to buy magazines that tell them really fucked up ways to act and live, respect that choice. Some women choose to be housewives and put the family above their personal careers, respect that choice. Some women choose to dress provocatively, get shit-faced drunk in dangerous situations, and then use absolutely no safeguards to protect themselves from harm, respect that choice. More importantly though, recognize that the onus for those choices are ON WOMEN, not anyone else. Not some nebulous power structure that defies reality. Not some shadowy conglomerate of male conspirators looking to keep women barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. It is THEIR CHOICE for good or ill, and they must suffer the consequences of those choices regardless.

            Ironically, this argument is as old as human written tradition, and probably older. If you ever get the chance, for laughs you ought to read the first 3 chapters or so of the book of Genesis. Right at the end, where they are talking about what happened, the man says, “That woman you gave me made me do it!” And then the woman says, “That snake lied to me and made me do it!” Failure to admit ones one culpability is innate to human nature. This is nothing new. But unless we want to be doomed to constantly repeating the tragic cycles of history, we have to own up to our responsibility for our individual choices, and respect those made by others, even if we disagree.

            As for why I bother with someone that I do not see eye to eye with exactly, the answer is quite simple. When two people pull together, the boat rows straight. When more than two pull together, the boat rows straight and fast. However, when two people striving for the same goal pull against each other, the boat just runs in circles, over and over. If everyone in the boat pulls in different directions, the boat goes no where and often times people get hurt or killed in the ensuing chaos. We have already seen what happens when ideologies that should be working together work against each other…(anti-abortionist bombings, the crusades, violent anti-war protests, etc, etc, etc)

          • First of all, your analogy assumes we are in the same boat together. I don’t think we are. Besides, you are not requesting that my ideology work together with yours; you are requesting for me to change my ideology to match your own.

            Second of all, while your “take responsibility” sermon is nice and all, it assumes people live in a vacuum empty of all influence. Psychology is a thing. If you pester somebody enough they will say whatever you want to hear. Torture has shown us that. Is a choice made under incredible pressure really a choice made of free will? I don’t believe so. I will start expecting full and equal responsibility from all people when all people have full and equal freedom to make any choice. But I don’t believe that will happen in my lifetime. My biff is with the culture that takes on a life of its own and places unfair pressure on people to make certain choices based on irrelevant things about them, like race or sex or gender identity or sexual orientation. It’s that culture and that pressure I want to stop, or at least change, so that all people can make choices and have full responsibility.

            As you should already know, I have made a point to stress everyone’s role in stopping or changing that culture. Both men and women.

          • As far as power is concerned, I have failed if I made it sound tangible. That is as far from the truth as you can get. The power dynamic I hate is nebulous. It is not the lack of female CEOs; it is the lack of support for girls who want to be CEOs, the lack of expectation that a girl could become a CEO, the lack of examples to inspire girls to want to be CEOs. I don’t necessarily want men to give power to women by making more women CEOs, or for women to stage a coup and somehow steal the CEO positions from the men. The lack of female CEOs is a symptom, not the disease. I want men and women to look at little boys and girls and talk to them the same way: asking about their interests instead of their appearances, encouraging critical thinking and individuality instead of mob mentality, expecting leadership and initiative from both equally. I want the toys for children to be given indiscriminately to boys and girls, regardless of foolish gender designations. I want questions to be asked instead of assumptions made, questions like: “Do you like boys or girls? both? Neither?” “What color room would you like to have if you could choose anything in the world?” “Would you like to wear a suit or a dress to the party?” “Would you rather read the spy novel or the gossip girl series?” Etc. Refusing to expect or assume answers is the first step in allowing everyone equal freedom to choose, because whether we like it or not, children sense our expectations and decide whether to fulfill them or rebel.

            If we raise boys and girls in an environment where they are both praised and scolded for the same things and there are no double standards, where they are both allowed to make mistakes without it reflecting permanently on their reputation and there is no double standard, where they are both permitted and expected to feel and express all emotions and are taught how to do so in a healthy way and there is no double standard, where they are provided equal opportunity to showcase their physical and mental abilities and there is no double standard, where they are both assigned leadership positions and taught how to use them and there is no double standard, where they are both taught housekeeping skills and are expected to use them and there is no double standard, where they are both offered help or left to fend for themselves depending on the situation and there is no double standard, THEN and among many many other things, girls may start to believe they can be CEOs and that people would like them if they were. THEN maybe more girls will dream of owning a company and decide they want to be CEOs. THEN maybe girls will be released from the fear that so often stops them from reaching up and boys may be released from the fear which so often stops them from reaching inward. THEN the power dynamics will work themselves out and everything will settle into equality.

            I like the idea of complementary roles in relationships and in society, but not at the expense of the individual. If individuals complement each other, wonderful!! But they mustn’t be assumed or assigned certain talents or aptitudes or personalities based on sex alone. I believe solving these problems will equalize the power structure.

          • I wasn’t trying to be preachy, sorry if it came across that way, but that is just how I write. As for being in the same boat, it was an analogy about working towards common goals. If your goal is not equal treatment of all people then we are indeed in different boats altogether.

            Taking responsibility does not preclude or discount the impact of psychology or social pressure, but rather places the onus of rising above that pressure on the individual. The thing is, society will not change unless the people that it is comprised of change. People will not change as long as they continue to allow someone else to make their decisions for them(regardless of whether it is done by social pressure or psychological influences). Hence, the root issue IS personal accountability, and all change must stem from that.

            Finally, you do not have to like, agree, or change your philosophy to agree with mine, nor need I change mine to agree with yours. However, should the egotism be set aside, the best possible outcome would be for us to learn from each other, each making adjustments and corrections where they are needed. Many(most) of the corrections to my own philosophies have happened over the last several years from discussions just like this, and I would like to think that perhaps in some small way I have helped others adjust their own. If the goal of civilized discourse is not to assist in broadening and altering the perspective of our peers while simultaneously learning from them and altering our own, what’s the point?

          • It is fine to ask individuals to overcome society’s pressure, as long as they are aware of the pressure in the first place. That is part of the goal of this blog. Sex based choices and differences are made out to be “natural” and “normal” and all societal pressure becomes the man behind the curtain while all we can see is the big green mask of “nature” staring us in the face. If we actually let people know and said, “hey, we’re pressuring you to be like this!” then it would make sense to ask people to overcome that, but it’s more subtle. We say, “hey, aren’t you like this already? You’re weird and unnatural if you’re not. What’s wrong with you? Now we hate you.” If people believe they have the potential to be anyone or anything and then recognize society trying to box them in, they can overcome that, but if they believe they have limited potential because they were born that way, they aren’t likely to try.

          • So, two different points here, some of which I agree with, absolutely, and some of which I don’t. To give the brief, in the areas where your thoughts are concrete, I generally agree. Where they become entirely subjective, I tend to disagree.

            For example, citing that part of your intent is to identify where society exerts pressure is admirable. And most of those we, as a society, are already aware of. Unfortunately, as long as people support them with their wallets, those institutions will remain. Other areas I feel that you are stepping across an invisible line in the sand. Essentially, once things get down to the family unit, I draw the line on allowing others to say what should or should not be taught. Family is sancrosact to me. The primary reason for this is actually because stability within the household is paramount to the development of a healthy human psyche, and bowing to external pressures on how to deal with your children or spouse leads to nothing but trouble. If you aren’t married, or do not have children, I respectfully request that you wait until you have some experience in that area before you try to disprove that statement. Personal experience is a wonderful teacher.

            I also tend to disagree with you analysis of natural influences on psychology. While there are certainly some areas where biology plays no role and some grey areas where it’s influence is questionable, there are undoubtedly many areas where it has a real and relevant impact on human psychology. Ignoring those is dangerous to the species.

            As for raising little boys and little girls the same, that only works to a degree, and a surprisingly small degree at that. Unfortunately, parenthood does not come with a manual, and the manuals written by other parents generally have only limited application in any given circumstance and generally cause more problems than they are worth. The idea that you can raise children in a gender neutral environment is dangerous to the child. Sure, let them play with whatever toys they want, or where whatever clothes they want(to an extent), these are trivial things in the grand scheme of things. However, boys and girls do not face the same challenges in life, mentally, physically, emotionally, or even spiritually. They develop at different rates, they go through wildly different growth cycles, and face wildly different external influences and pressures. While it may seem self defeating, if you do not raise your children in a manner that is mindful of their physiology, you are setting them up for failure, and do not deserve to be a parent.

            All of that said, I absolutely agree on giving them the same rights, responsibilities, and expectations in regards to the mundane day to day tasks of living, within the boundaries implied by what is stated above. My daughter doesn’t physically have the capability(without drugs or steroids) for growth that my son has. She will be tall and slender with a slight muscle mass like her mother. Even if she works out ever day. So, naturally, I am going to steer her clear of things that would be physically dangerous because they put too much stress on her body. That is no more sexist than an engineer saying that no trucks are allowed on a bridge because it can not support the weight.

            This is where a lot of people go crazy. They try to apply blanket statements to areas that can not be universally mandated. What my daughter might be interested in may not be physically possible for her, and as a parent I am left with two choices; either let her get her hopes and expectations up and burn herself out, or gently curb and redirect that energy into something more fulfilling AND achievable. Knowing the current framework of society, in terms of how we engage in employment and trade(get a job, make money, buy stuff, etc), part of doing my job as a parent is to make sure that her expectations of herself are realistic. Sure, she could be a CEO, but that doesn’t mean she would make a good tool pusher on an oil rig. Not because she is mentally incapable, but because the nature of the task would be damaging to her physically, as would be the path to get to the point where it would not be damaging to her physically. Could she physically be a soldier, sure. Emotionally though she couldn’t. Not because she is a woman, but because she simply does not have it in her to squeeze the trigger without it crippling her emotionally.

            The point of all of that is that there is no such thing as a single standard for raising a child, even children within the same household. There may be double, triple, or even more standards as the situation dictates. While I certainly agree that they should be allowed and encouraged to pursue a variety of interest and emotional expression in a safe, friendly environment, there is no way do what you are saying while still being a good parent. What you described is very much akin to apathy, and no parent worth the title should ever be guilty of apathy.

  3. Damn. Feminism posts really encourage huge discussions in the comments! A well-written article, something I can’t say for many other feminist articles which feel like a vent more than a discussion of issues. Just a couple of points I want to raise: As a feminist, one should realise that there are issues which are a result of past oppression against women, and there are issues which are a result of the way society is structured. The former, I believe as a male, are mostly centered on economic inequality, where women were previously not given the same educational and economic opportunities. This has largely changed, and any remaining disparities between men and women are fading fast. It’s not something that should be seen as ‘needing a solution’. That problem has been solved and only needs time to be fully implemented. The latter issue (societal structures) must be differentiated between what is actually an unfair construct which only affects women, and what is in fact simply a societal norm that affects everyone. Fashion and cosmetics etc. are not limited to women. It is not just ‘men’ who make women wear high-heels. Indeed, it is the same with men who gym to impress women, or their own male friends. Or, and this is my favourite, the recent pandemic of shaving/waxing among men, for the sake of impressing women. It’s a double edged sword. It is not sexism which promotes women to wear high heels and makeup to feel more empowered, it’s society in general. Perhaps I should write my own post on this…

  4. Pingback: A Feminist Mix for International Women’s Day — Blog — WordPress.com·

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