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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Gender Issues » Oppression here, oppression there...

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Author Topic: Oppression here, oppression there...
Dzuunmod
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I was chatting today with a group of friends, some of whom think that women are oppressed by men -- all the time, everywhere, no matter what they are doing. Is this valid? The example we dicussed was that women feel the need to be tall, and so they wear shoes that add inches to their height. Why do they feel they need to be tall? Because society says that's attractive. Who in society decides what's attractive? Well, powerful men like me do, of course.

Sigh, it just all feels like demonizing an entire group when not everyone in the group is responsible for that bad stuff. I don't think very many people would argue that all Arabs must be terrorists because some of them have blown people up in the past, now would they? Can anyone explain this to me?

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My God can beat up your God.
-Weights and Measures


Posts: 1515 | From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada | Registered: Jun 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
KittenGoddess
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Well Dzuunmod, I've gotta agree with you on one hand, and disagree with you on the other. While it may not seem fair to say that you won't ever understand how women feel about this because you're a man, that is pretty much the way it is. No, on an individual level, there are many men who don't seem to oppress women, or who don't actively obviously oppress women. But at the same time, the system as a whole is inherently corrupt.

Ask yourself this question...you're going to get married, who is automatically expected to give up their name? Maybe you don't say "Hey, you have to take my name or else!", but at the same time, I'd say that a majority of men wouldn't even consider that there could possibly be a discussion of it beforehand. Comparing the "war of the sexes" to Arabian terrorists is like comparing apples and oranges. You have to look at the history of the entire culture to see that women have nearly always been considered second class.

The truth is that there are very few places where there is equality in its truest form. You may or may not be able to see that from where you're sitting. Alot of that is because the media sends us mixed messages about it...they'll tell you that the battle for equality is over, that we've won and its all even. But you should try being a woman for a while, you'll learn it's not. See what it's like to be told that you're equal, but still subordinate. You'll be given a job because of quotas, but then watch man after man advance faster and farther than you will. (case in point...male nurses advance to supervisory positions approximately 10 times as fast as female nurses even though nursing is a female dominated field, and some of the women passed over may be more qualified) You'll be told you need to take business trips and travel in order to advance, and then be rediculed as a bad mother for abandoning your children (while a man doing the same is saluted for making such a sacrifice as his family). You'll watch the government and your company be unwilling to subsidise your child care or give adequate maternity leave or family leave, and refuse to prosecute your ex for the tiny amount of child support he owes your kids. You'll consistently have lower saleries than your male counterparts. You'll turn on the TV and see the conflicting female images presented by shows like Friends and about every other show on TV. And you open magazines to see images that not only conflict, but are unhealthy and unrealistic.

The bottom line is that no, not all men are evil males out to keep women down, and the situation I described above won't exist for every single woman. But you're going to experience descrimination at one point or another, in one form or another. And men run most of the Fortune 500 companies, men still hold the supervisory positions in a majority of fields, even women's magazines generally have men making the decisions. Whether or not you feel that sort of view is valid, well that really ceases to matter. It's about growing up female, and seeing the mixed messages and the conflict you're presented with. Male individuals make the decisions and judgements in a majority of areas in society, like it or not, it's still the boys club. And what are you doing to change that? Really, until there is true equality, you're gonna get views from women like this.

You're tired of seeing your gender penalized for a great many of it's members, then actively do something. Remember how women feel about this, when you're in charge of something then make an effort to be fair, and point out unfairness when you see others engaging in it as opposed to just sitting back and shaking your head and saying "well I don't do things like that" and then expect a woman to be thrilled about the fact that one man won't oppress her, but he won't help her either.

*<steps down off soapbox>*

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~KittenGoddess
Scarleteen Advocate

There's hair there for a reason!

"Never insult an alligator until after you've crossed the river." ~Oriental Proverb


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Dzuunmod
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Hey KG,
I didn't say anywhere in my post that I know what it's like to be a woman. I don't, and I don't claim to. I also didn't say that the battle for equality is over, and I would never say such a thing because I don't believe it. I think of myself as a strong feminist, actually (though you might not know it from my appearances at these boards, because there are so few men here, and, well, I've gotta represent, right?).

My problem isn't with women thinking that they aren't equal, no, it's with women who argue that my very presence in the same room as them is oppressive to them. Have you heard this? I heard it yesterday, and later got my partner to explain it to me in better depth. Some people think that if I'm in the same room as a woman, because I know about my "superiority" over her, and so does she, that I'm oppressing her by making her feel that she has to live up to my "male" expectations. Dammit, I don't have any male expectations, and I don't think it's fair of people to pin them on me without knowing anything of me.

I think that it's sexist to assume that just because I happen to be of the same sex as people who've created standards and expectations of women for millenia, that I apply those standards and expectations to every (or any) woman that I see. To assume that I'm like every bad male in history, well, how is that different from assuming that every black person is like every bad black person in history? The same could go for whites, or natives, or gays, or redhaired people. It's sexist, and the only reason that women get away with making such assumptions is that I'm not from a visible minority, or any other such persecuted group, so it's acceptable, right?

I'm an individual. I don't identify as a male first and foremost, I simply identify as me.

I'm certainly not suggesting that there's some grand evil plot on the part of women everywhere in the works, but history's shown us that the way to draw people into a cause is to find an enemy, and then lump all the members of that enemy into one faceless, homogenous group. Then you start to demonize them. Can someone tell me how this scenario differs from the 'you're-oppressing-me-just-by-being-in-the-same-room-as-me' radical feminist attitude?

(Dzuunmod takes a deep breath...)

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My God can beat up your God.
-Weights and Measures


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KittenGoddess
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Well, lemme put it to you this way then...

I'm recently reading a book called Where the Girls Are - Growing Up Female with the Mass Media by Susan J. Douglas (excellent book, by the way). And I think something she says in there has some definate relation to that.

quote:
"Women learn to turn themselves into objects to be scrutinized; they learn that they must continually watch themselves being watched by others..."

She goes on to explain about how we're taught by the media and society to follow these gender sterotypes. That we must continually survail ourselves to make sure that every hair is in place, or that we're not doing something stupid...because a man might be watching. It's what some researchers call the "male-gaze". That whether or not we consiously realize it, we play to the audience of men at all times because of what's expected of us, or what it's perscripted that we are supposed to be.

Make sense?

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~KittenGoddess
Scarleteen Advocate

There's hair there for a reason!

"Never insult an alligator until after you've crossed the river." ~Oriental Proverb


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Heather
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I'd actually shy away from using "redical feminism" to describe that stance. It seems to me that right now, the most radical feminism is that which is essentially humanism, and DOESN'T do those things: which analyzes honestly and with sensitivity -- as well as with accountability for one's own feelings -- and acts accordingly. Now, that's radical.

I have heard that approach though, Dzuun, and it is why Heather here lasted in women's studies ten years ago for all of one half a semester before she ran screaming from the room while her humanity was still intact.

I think it's sexist, too. And beyond sexist, I think it's cruel and socially irresponsible as well as just plain lazy. And I think it's the lazy bit that's the biggest contributor, because not being lazy means 1) having to be more conforntational to SPECIFIC people who are SPECIFICALLY responsible for injustices, and 2) having to find who those people are and do all the complex thinking that gets you to the why of what they do, and which more times than not, isn't as simplistic as one set of genitals.

But I also think a lot of it is sheer anger under the guise of politcs, and that's dangerous, in my mind, because what it can do is keep the anggry party from really looking at their feelings and working with them by allowing them to simpy project those feelings elsewhere by pointing fingers much in the way one does when playing Pin the Tail On the Donkey.

In this instance, I think what I'd really say is that some aspects of the feminist movement could stand to learn a lot from the Civil Rights movement.

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Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

My epitaph should read: "She worked herself into this ground."
-- Kay Bailey Hutchinson


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Dzuunmod
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It's always nice when you're in my corner, on these sorts of things, Miz S.

And KittenGoddess, I understand completely where female rage and upset-edness comes from (at least, inasmuch as a middle-class white male like me is able to). But what I'm getting at here, is that this stereotyping of males isn't looked at the same way that stereotyping of other groups is. With men, it's more acceptable. To try and get where I'm at across, I'll refer you to another middle-class white male, Ben Folds. He put a song out recently called Rockin' the Suburbs. In it, he sings about white guilt, which easily translates in the sort of male guilt that I'm made to feel, because of what's being discussed here.

"In a haze these days
I pull up to the stop light
I can feel that something's not right
I can feel that someone's blasting me with hate
And bass
Sendin' dirty vibes my way
'Cause my great great great great Grandad
Made someones' great great great great Grandaddies, slaves

It wasn't my idea
It wasn't my idea
Never was my idea
I just drove to the store
For some Preparation-H"

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My God can beat up your God.
-Weights and Measures


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Beppie
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I've heard that argument too, about the presence of a man oppressing a woman, and I do find it ludicrous. Personally, I often feel more at ease with being myself when I am in a male-dominated group. I think that this is purely social, not something intrinsic to males or females, but I often (not always) feel more pressure to be pretentious when around other females.
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KittenGoddess
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Ah, well my apologies Dzu, I didn't mean to come across as trying to pass judgment...I read the question to be that you didn't understand where the thought process came from.
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Rizzo
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I think the issue here is that it's perfectly natural to feel different ways around different people. I probably do act differently around men than women, just as I act differently around old people or young people or teachers or children etc. etc. Stereotypes, while potentially harmful, can also be fairly harmless mental shortcuts. If we didn't carry mental models (expectations) around with us, we'd never get anything done.

Anyway, if I feel uncomfortable around a man, that's because of something in my own head. Perhaps I've had bad experiences with men in the past and this individual man reminds me of a larger group. Or perhaps society (including the female members of it!) has been telling me that I should be wary of men. Either way, it's not this individual man's fault that I feel this way. I cannot blame this man for anything, just as I can't blame that girl with the exact same hairdo as the girl in grade four who stole my lunch (or whatever). I don't think feminism should be all about "an eye for an eye".


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sapphirecat
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We are living in a culture that defines specific roles for men and women, then punishes its members for conforming to those roles. Like how men are supposed to eliminate all emotion and be the strong protectors... and yet, most people I've met would prefer their guys to be able to show emotions. Or like how a girl (with whom I went to high school) assumed I was a horn dog and snapped at me because of her misconceptions about me.

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Sapphire Cat
You can love me or hate me, but it won't change who I am.


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