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Feb 20, 2003 to Feb 6, 2013

In the Male Preserve: A Sisterhood of Lost Power


On the first page of The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution, the author, Shulamith Firestone, warns women, “Feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organization of culture itself, and further, even the very organization of nature. Many women give up in despair: if that's how deep it goes they don't want to know.”

What Shulamith understood is that the one of the obstacles for making the case for feminist revolution were women themselves.

It was, in 1920, when American women won the vote, that they also lost their emancipation from the male domain. By given the vote in a man’s world, many men and women thought equal rights were thereafter redundant.

The masterstroke of the two-party system was to divide and conquer women along political party lines. Has anyone ever wondered why we have Women’s Democratic Clubs and Women’s Republican Clubs, when you’ll never find a Men’s Republican or Democratic Club? It’s because men are the “club.” Has anyone ever wondered why we have the Women’s League of Voters but not a Men’s League of Voters? Because men are the “league.”

The male preserve is long established. The Election of 2016 only reinforced the idea that women still have a long way to go. The fact that American men hide behind a self-styled two-party system in each of the 50 states does not in any way diminished men’s role as a unified force of the master gender. Unquestionably, from Genesis to this very day, the assigned roles of women remain, as Shulamith described in 1970, “secondary status” to men.

Shulamith Firestone went on to say, “This is painful, no matter how many levels of consciousness one reaches, the problem always goes deeper.” What Shulamith understood, that even most women today do not, is, as she wrote, “the family contained within itself in embryo, all the antagonisms that later develop on a wide scale within the society and state, and that, unless revolution uproots the basic social organization, the biological family, the tapeworm of exploitation will never be annihilated.” Obviously, the exploitation she was referring to are the many parasitic menfolk.

The traditional (patriarchal) man-centered family, and by extension, the social, cultural and political dominion controlled by men, has always been at the core of women’s oppression. With unusual candor for the time, Shulamith laid it out. She revealed that when she asked a friend what childbirth was like, her friend said, “Childbirth is like shi*ting a pumpkin,” she wrote. Shulamith believed that childhood is a “supervised nightmare.” There is no question that she was way ahead of the social and psychoanalytical icons that preceded her.

In helping to define the etymology of family, she wrote, the “term family was first used by the Romans to denote a social unit the head of which ruled over wife, children, and slaves - under Roman law he was invested with the rights of life and death over them all; famulus means domestic slave, and familia is the total number of slaves belonging to one man.”

Shulamith Firestone foresaw that what is necessary for human survival is the radical reassessment of the “sexual substratum of the historical dialectic." Unlike Freud, she did not think or accept that socialized gender repression was immutable. Rather, she thought, “In the radical feminist view, the new feminism is not just the revival of a serious political movement for social equality. It is the second wave of the most important revolution in history. Its aim: the overthrow of the oldest, most rigid class/caste system in existence, the class system based on sex - a system consolidated over thousands of years, lending the archetypal male and female roles and undeserved legitimacy and seeming permanence.”

The real art of the dialectic, as Shulamith understood it, is the examining and deliberating the truth of opinions and facts, not entertaining traditional male defensive protection, which merely regurgitate the tired-old dogma of the past. She saw the sincerity behind recognizing our past and present conditions for what they really are.

Unfortunately, her thought-provoking proposals in The Dialectic of Sex triggered more outrage than fresh thought.

If the current renascence of women does not revive the future of humanity, then the “reawakening” of women may not catch up in time to ride the “third feminist wave” of the most important revolution in history.

But when the blue flame of Shulamith Firestone from our past beats us to our present, maybe that is a good time to listen to a woman’s voice crying out from the wilderness of fifty years ago. These draining seconds of time is all we have.

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the 2017 war on women

There's a March for Life today in Washington that Vice President Pence will join. (They used to have marches a week or so after women's right's marches, and the crowd turnout is always significantly smaller. I expect another small turnout, but lots of claims of how it was huge. Yeah, right.)

The Trump team has clearly decided to go to war with women over a wide range of issues, from abortion and health care to the environment, economy, labor, and so on. They really hope to turn back Roe vs. Wade.

This threat represents an opportunity for women and supporters, but the battle won't be won by adding names to email petitions or liking things on social media.

Trump and his team crave positive good headlines, so one goal for disrupters should be to make news. Sit in at offices. Chain oneself to a fence. March again and again.

Of course, this team anticipates this and is already trying to delegitimize media. (At war with media as well, who also have to step up their game. Luckily Trump isn't playing by the former rules, so media have no choice but to become hostile.)

I know for some people it is new and different to have to think about "doing something" and that we'd mostly prefer to sit on couches with puppies and snacks watching a movie, but it is now one of those times when we are really needed. Any little thing will help.

I don;t think organizing is necessarily the answer this time. I think a more random approach, with more people acting spontaneously, might be more effective.

I also think we should have some fun with this. For example, let's all go buy pitchforks. They are cheap, and handy to have around. If we buy out the local hardware stores, someone can then write a story about pitchforks selling out in a Vermont town. We can then boost that story to a wider level, and others might follow. Imagine politicians waking up to stories that pitchforks have sold out. : )

But, back to your story. I think women are under fierce attack right now and I plan to do what I can to help defend. I can't really lead this battle, but I'm in the reserves, willing to serve.

 
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The War on Women: 5775 – To The Present

Your statement “The Trump team has clearly decided to go to war with women over a wide range of issues, from abortion and health care to the environment, economy, labor, and so on. They really hope to turn back Roe vs. Wade. This threat represents an opportunity for women and supporters” does not reflect the reality.

The war you speak of against “abortion, healthcare, environment, economy, labor” are not women issues, with the exception of abortion. They are people issues. (Even abortion is often enough decided between the mother and biological father.)

Moreover, I’ve been reviewing Maria’s links and I’m beginning to find this whole one billion collective distressing. My feminist activism dates before the equal rights amendment in 1972. I’ve frequently written about feminism, including my article above. But what I see happen now, is that these current events confirm my thinking that most people live in the moment.

This compilation of women marching is a scattershot of a multitude of issues where they couldn’t hit the side of barn.

To this day women can’t bring themselves to focus on breaking away from the patriarchal system and the religions that anchor women eternally “fighting” to save themselves from everything but the one thing that would give them meaningful freedom: man’s religion and his subsequent political dominance.

Shulamith Firestone died at 67. Today she’d be about 72, still relatively young. If she had lived I can't help but wonder where she'd stand (beyond the obvious). It's possible, like me, she might have mixed feelings about"now." Too many women today can hardly stand in her shadow, much less find it.

 
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Strange that women don't notice

It breaks my heart that women themselves tear at each other and willingly abide by male domination and further it to boot. If we can learn anything from men that would be beneficial it is the way men support each other.

Speaking with an office worker during one of my errands, I said, "It's obvious that we're in a male-dominated culture when men get honored for walking around in military uniform and mothers who breastfeed their babies in public are considered obscene.

Women who are "successful" in corporations or government are essentially expressing their ability to be the best in complying with the male template.

Women don't notice either that the Constitution was written solely by men. Where is the democracy in that? Why do women recognize the Constitution? Why don't they notice that they weren't represented at all?

 
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“Remember the ladies"

While the menfolk were busy writing the U.S. Constitution, Abigail Adams asked her husband, John Adams, to “remember the ladies.”

 
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I don't think you're giving

I don't think you're giving women much credit in your post. Yes, we certainly live in a male dominated world and culture but one only needs to look at what happened last weekend- not only in this country but around the world- to know that women do, indeed, notice. Hundreds of thousands of women of all ages, religions, races and genders ( yes..there were many transgendered women who marched) took to the streets to protest, to protect, to give voice to their concerns and to make it known that women everywhere have noticed. Women created, organized and led the hundreds of marches that took place and were glad to see so many men out in force supporting and amplifying our voices. I think most women understand that major change takes time; it takes dedication and sacrifice and anger and determination to make change. We need each other. We need support from whoever willingly gives it. We need to believe that our voices and our work will be noticed. What we don't need are other women scolding us because they think we don't know or can't see what's going on. We see.

 
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“Major change takes time”

Kris, on the train to Washington on the 20th I sat next to a young woman who told me that 53% of women voted for trump. (I haven’t double-checked her…) In any case, a boatload of women voted for “Him” and I would not be surprised if the majority women did so.

After 50 years of activism under my belt, always including feminism, failing to give “women much credit” is the least of their worries. Over those years, some of the most strident people I met in defense of patriarchy were women.

Everybody wants to be noticed, and apparently in 673 cities worldwide. It took a blatant, outspoken misogynist in the white house to do that. If Hillary had won, it would be good ol boy patriarchy business as usual. (All women, Hillary included, who believe in and support patriarchal religions are fundamentally patriarchal subjects themselves.)

The mixed support I feel for this month’s marches isn’t a failure to give women credit. If I’ve spent 50 years of my life totally supporting women equal rights (and, indeed, voted for the ERA in ’72), right to abortion, right to equal pay and job opportunities, and too many rights to list here, there’s a limit to which I’ll accept anyone telling me I have failed to give due credit.

 
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Hi Vidda, My comment was not

Hi Vidda,
My comment was not in response to your post nor actually meant for you, It was in response to DWard's post bemoaning the fact ( or at least how she imagines it to be ) that women aren't paying attention. That we don't or aren't bothering to "see" what patriarchy has reaped. I've spent much of my adult life working hard for equality and against the many wrong decisions our government has take, I carried my babies in back packs to protests and marches and ran political campaigns for minority candidates on a local level. So,no, I wasn't suggesting that you weren't giving credit to women. I was expressing my opinion that women are working very hard ( as we always have) to make this a better world for everyone - not just our own gender. And that we are in the streets and on our computers and phones making calls and and carrying signs and doing what we are able to make sure we don't lose our hard won rights. And, that to have women's ability to "get it" being questioned by another women is infuriating and disloyal to all the women who stand for what's right and fair.

 
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Oh Kris, I checked the tiered sequence

Oh Kris, I checked the tiered sequence and I'm sorry. You are so right. I just reread your comment in the context of your reply to DWard.

I think DWard means well but she can be highly critical in a "bemoaning" sort of way. In person she is quite sweet, but as a late-in-life activist (after raising her son) she is impatient in the way many idealist are.

I don't know how to delete my comment, but there may be one or two points to salvage that might make sense outside of my mistake. :~)

 
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No need to delete it. I knew

No need to delete it. I knew that you were reading it as a reply to your original post and not to the intended post. Meaning well is fine but it doesn't help to get things done. And speaking so broadly and without basis about those who are attempting to get things done is neither helpful nor in the spirit of women supporting women. I don't think you can just fling words out into the air and see where they land without considering the impact. Maybe actually talking with some of the women who are being activists would be the first step for DWard or anyone else who doubts the battle scars of many women. Okay- my rant is ( possibly ) over.

 
 #

I do not think that...

slamming DWard is productive.

Clearly the dismay she has expressed over the extent to which women collaborate with patriarchy is heartfelt, and comes from positive motivations. Why not offer a counterpoint to the issues she is raising with welcoming, respectful dialogue?

 
 #

Your quest to define what is productive and respectful dialogue

I think you missed the salient points that Kris was making to respond to DWard’s comment: “Women don't notice either that the Constitution was written solely by men. Where is the democracy in that? Why do women recognize the Constitution? Why don't they notice that they weren't represented at all?”

Kris wrote in her reply: “…in response to DWard's post bemoaning the fact ( or at least how she imagines it to be ) that women aren't paying attention. That we don't or aren't bothering to "see" what patriarchy has reaped…What we don't need are other women scolding us because they think we don't know or can't see what's going on. We see…And, that to have women's ability to "get it" being questioned by another women is infuriating and disloyal to all the women who stand for what's right and fair…And speaking so broadly and without basis about those who are attempting to get things done is neither helpful nor in the spirit of women supporting women. I don't think you can just fling words out into the air and see where they land without considering the impact. Maybe actually talking with some of the women who are being activists would be the first step for DWard or anyone else who doubts the battle scars of many women.”

Clearly it was DWard’s broad, inclusive generalization of “all” women that Kris is responding to. I have recommended to DWard in the past to change those “all” to say instead…Too many women or some women, etc. DWard can make “some” people think that she is generalizing about all women.

And, once again on these pages, I think much more than other commenters I read, you have set yourself up as one who holds the higher ground on iBrattleboro as to what is or what is not “productive” and “respectful dialogue.” All the while missing the constructive points Kris was making. When you add to that, that DWard could have replied to KAlden herself, but choose not to simply means that their “dialogue” is incomplete. (I was actually looking forward to DWard’s reply to KAlden.)

 
 #

DWard did not say all women

She did not specify "all" or "some," but from the context it is clear that she did not mean all women.

Vidda, since you feel that this should be between KAlden and DWard, why don't you and I step aside.

 
 #

A midshipmen's term

"Vidda, since you feel that this should be between KAlden and DWard, why don't you and I step aside."

What? So you agree with me that you inserted yourself between KAlden and DWard...and then you have the audacity to say to me, "why don't you and I step aside?" Then why the hell didn't you just stay out of it in the first place??

Before you "inserted" yourself, I was hoping that DWard would comment. She can often speak well for herself.

There's a Navy term that comes to mind that might fit you nicely: Dunsel. Which is "a term used by midshipmen in the 23rd century to describe a part which serves no useful purpose."

 
 #

I'm going to just jump in

I'm going to just jump in here since my name and intent is being bandied about. DWard said "women" which implies plural which to my mind implies women as a gender and a group: ie: "all". This is not the first time that her posts have included generalizations that are not factual nor respectful to those in the particular group she is referring to who are, in fact, behaving in a manner that is opposite of what DWard implies. I don't need nor want to be lumped into any group that someone else feels is not living up to their potential as part of the human race.
In my opinion many of the comments made by DWard show an unrealistic simplicity in how she feels changes should be made. And, more often than not they carry a scolding and disrespectful tone. I give respect when it is warranted.
I don't need to be told that I am buckling under to a patriarchy nor ( as was said in another post) to be told that women shouldn't be demonstrating. Women should be doing whatever women feel is productive and powerful and appropriate. And, yes, I AM referring to "all" women. What women should not be doing is verbally trying to defeat the positive and peaceful actions of other women simply because they have never experienced the magnificent strength of solidarity.

 
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?

?

 
 #

“Because you’re a girl.”

I was talking to a friend about feminism and the women marches earlier. She said she didn’t understand why women haven’t risen en masse long before now.

Like most people, I witness history mostly through the available texts. There is something troubling, eerie even, about the recessive, even submissive nature of women that permeates recorded history for, how long, thousands of years?

Why the predominate silence and acquiescence from women for so long of a time? Was Genesis so convincing that gullible generations of women and men took thousands of years to work up a “renaissance of resistance?” Men surely are majorly at fault. But are women culpable in any way for not standing up for themselves in the wake of “The Rights of Man?”

The greatest human holocaust throughout history was not slaves or Jews, it was women. Yet, far more women died in the cause of patriarchies than they did for standing against it. What would our world be like today if women and their “supporters” had only turned the tide against male dominance so long ago?

Aside from the possible prehistory of the origins of patriarchy, our world today is reeling from the unnatural misogynist forces that the Abrahamic religions punched through generation after generation that was and is systemic beliefs and assumptions without having verifiable and inherent truths of their own.

When Sulamith Firestone asked her “observing” father, “Why do I have to make my brother’s bed?” he answered, “Because you’re a girl.”

 

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