Fangirl Saves the World

just who the hell do you think you are, anyway?

Archive for March 2010

“I’m not a feminist, but…”

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“I’m not a feminist, but [insert complaint about the patriarchy here].”
Am I the only one who is filled with rage at this? It’s collusion of the highest order. “Oh, I’m not one of those people working against you, but since I’m working for you, could you reward me as one of you own?”
Hint: they won’t. The patriarchy does not love you. It sees you as a disposable object, one of many interchangeable, identityless bodies. The patriarchy thinks you are flawed and defective and dirty. It tells you to be quiet and then blames you for not being loud enough. It tells you to be demure and then blames you for not fighting hard enough.
If you’re white enough, rich enough, skinny enough, straight enough – in short, if you’re privileged enough – you can get by. They might take you seriously if your skirt isn’t deemed “too short,” if you weren’t “too drunk,” if you didn’t know him. You probably won’t go without eating.
Perhaps, if you’re compliant – if you’re pretty and nurturing and don’t complain – you can eat the crumbs of their pie, if they’re feeling generous. What the hell? Why don’t you give up begging for their table scraps and help us make our own damn pie? I know you’re afraid of going hungry – we all are – but we’ve got the ingredients, between us all. It might not taste the same, but we’ve had the same pie for two thousand years or more. Don’t you think it’s starting to go a little stale?

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Written by Fangirl

March 21, 2010 at 10:56 am

nobody’s “helpmeet”

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a black and white photo of a white woman and her daughter in 1950s era aprons and holding baking equiptment; the wife, smiling, is looking at her daughter (who is also smiling) and saying "That's right, sweetheart; dreams and goals are Satan's way from distracting you from making dinner."

D’you know what word fills me with rage?
Helpmeet.
Every time I read it, I just want to stomp around like fucking Godzilla.
It just… ew. The connotations are disgusting: submit to him, damn it, because he’s the man and you’re the woman, he’s smart and you’re stupid he’s right and you’re wrong.

A few men are born with more than their share of dominance and, on the surface, a deficit in gentleness. (source)

… but that’s okay, because he will “exalt” (and presumably stop abusing*) her if she just sits down and shuts the fuck up (and if he’s not exalting you, it’s your own damn fault, fucking uppity whining harpy bitch).

If you are married to a king, honor and reverence is something you must give him on a daily basis if you want him to be a benevolent, honest, strong, and fulfilled man of God.

Yeah: do as your told and he’ll be nicer to you.
This is the sort of apologist bullshit I expect from, well, abusers; it takes on a whole different level of disturbing and upsetting when the victims are going on about how this is totes okay because God says so. (They probably have some bullshit caveat about how “this isn’t really abuse” (the same way beating your children with PVC piping is also just good upbringing “training,” or how a good man of God would never harm his spouse (bullshit, I say, and here’s one example)). They might say that’s not the ~intent but people love abusing their power; that old truism “absolute power corrupts absolutely”? they call them truisms for a reason. I mean, c’mon people: if your husband’s word is law and you’re not supposed to challenge his authority, telling him to stop abusing you is breaking the law… and this, my friends, is what we call a Catch-22.)
If you’re not a wife yet, being your husband’s helpmeet, you should stay at home and help your dad, since you’re his property until you get married, anyway. No, really. There’s tons of bullshit about glorifying your [male relative]’s achievements and doing a lot of legwork but taking no credit and just being glad your [male relative] gets all of this cool stuff done, or something, and the most important part is that you never once complain about doing arduous and menial labor for no thanks, let alone pay. This all comes down to stroking male egos (many of the articles are about how a woman should never chastise or correct her husband, even when his behavior is out of line or he’s just plain old fashioned incorrect) and ensuring that their fantasy of what women are or should be (unpaid laborers who do so without ever striking and demanding better workplace conditions and thirty days of paid leave each year). It’s win-win if you’re a man: you have a penis, so you’re always right and the whole family belongs to you and exists for your pleasure. If your wife says otherwise, just remind her that if she doesn’t follow your directions explicitly, immediately and cheerfully, she is rebelling and will go straight to hell for daring to disagree with you. That’ll shut her up. (It does, too; these men exploit religious beliefs and deeply held fears of damnation to their own, ultimately self-serving, ends and they never have to examine what that means because that’s just how God made it, and us uppity, hairy feminist bitches need to shut up and get back to the kitchen, already.)
No, let me tell you how it is: women are people, too.
We all have the right to pursue our own dreams. I do not exist merely to serve some man’s every wish and whim, to suffer abuse for failing to be “cheerful” about performing arduous but menial tasks for no thanks, let alone recognition. Subjugation is, by nature, never joyful; it breeds resentment and discontent. Collaboration and compromise that takes the needs of both partners into account is the only way to a truly joyful relationship.
… but I forgot, didn’t I? These people aren’t talking about respectful, loving relationships between people, they’re talking about the relationship between a man and his property, because women aren’t really people in their minds, just nameless, faceless mothers and wives at best, and nameless, faceless “incubators” at worst.
This whole patriarchal religious movement is just a way to ensure that male fantasies about the role of women continue to be fulfilled, at the expense of actual women.

I know I’m taking potshots at easy targets, here, but I run emotional and intellectual laps every day. It’s a great workout for my brain and I’m a better person for it, but sometimes I get tired. Sure, all this makes me see red, but I can say, with 100% certainty, that I am right and they are wrong, because I am human and female and I know that I am human and that my desire to be treated like one is not sinful rebellion, it’s righteous outrage. This isn’t even moral high ground; right now, I’m on the moral Mount Everest and they’re at the bottom of the deepest, darkest ocean crevasse of morality. This feeling of being right, with no nuances or disclaimers, is not one I am afforded often, and I’m going to take it for now while I relax. I’ll get back to the grindstone tomorrow.


*a “deficit of gentleness”? c’mon.

Written by Fangirl

March 5, 2010 at 3:31 pm

[open thread] slashfic, social justice and you

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If you’re not into meta/fandom, you might’ve missed the ongoing debate about slash. There’s a lot going on, so I’m going to link to a few articles instead of trying, and doubtlessly failing, to come up with something coherent on the subject, as all I have been able to do is chase myself in circles. (Ask Y: I do not enjoy not knowing the answer to something; as I have no answer for this, I’m asking y’all.)
Henry Jenkins, ever my hero, wrote the book (literally) on fan cultures, including an essay called Normal Female Interest In Men Bonking, which is one of my favorites; Geek Feminism has a post on women writing m/m erotica and the queerness or misogyny of slash fandom, and there’s a summary on why male/male fiction written by women is problematic in the eyes of some. metafandom‘s slash tag on Delicious is full of articles and entries, if you really care that much.
So, potential discussion questions: is slash misogynist? if it is misogynist, is it because of the original author’s misogyny (failing to create female characters female readers can identify with), or because of internalized sexism (girls are icky!), both or something else entirely? is it objectifying? fetishizing? Othering? appropriation of another group’s struggles? if so, what should slash writers do about that, if anything? is slash awesome because it gives women symbolic control over men’s bodies when we have, for basically ever, been denied control over our own bodies and sexualities, and basically gives us an excuse to talk, in detail, about what we find sexually appealing? or is it bad because it’s asserting hetero privilege over a marginalized group for our own entertainment? does that change if the (female*) creator/audience is queer, ourselves? if so, in what ways? can slash be a subversive genre? can writing/reading slash empowering, even as it is fetishizing? how do you tackle this particular quandary?
Or basically anything else you can think of. I wanna hear what y’all have to say. Talking in circles, tossing in facts, figures and links to relevant information (as long as they’re relevant), etc. is all fair game. Whatever you want, go!

(xposted from lion-hearted girls prefer blond(e)s.)


*yes, I am operating under the assumption that slash fen are female; I know there are exceptions.

why this girl isn’t good at math

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You all know there’s some debate about why girls are good at math until about puberty, and then we suddenly start underachieving. There are a lot of theories about why: learning math anxiety from female teachers, people telling them girls just can’t do math and science as well as boys, Barbie.

So now I’m going to tell you a story. Once upon a time, when I was a middle schooler, I was good at math. Okay, that’s an understatement: I was great at math. I routinely scored over 100% on our tests (the highest I managed was 131% on a geometry test), finished homework quickly and easily and actually enjoyed the work once we got past things like memorizing multiplication tables (something I still have trouble with). I think my class average for the year was 103% or something.

I also knew, as a fifth grade girl, that there would be people who didn’t want me to be good at math. I was ready for them. I dared my teachers and fellow students to tell me I wasn’t supposed to be good at math. I flaunted my high grades; humility was a trait I hadn’t mastered yet, and why shouldn’t I be anything but proud of my high grades?

So then came sixth grade. I was no longer with the math teacher I had done so well with, though I remained with the same home room teacher, who quickly became my nemesis. I got bored and turned into a little monster. If I had been in her shoes, I probably would have hated me. I finished our entire workbook early in the year and proceeded to spend the rest of the time alternating between thinking up ways to annoy her and playing video games. (I’d get in trouble for one and switch to the other.) She couldn’t really tell me I had to pay attention, either, since I always knew the answer to the question she’d ask me and I continued getting really good grades.

Sometimes, when I wanted to feel like I was involved with the class, I would help my friend JT. I showed him how to do the work. (We sat together in the back of the classroom.) One time, my poor, frustrated teacher told me that if I knew the work so well, I should teach it. So I went up to her overhead and did so… probably not what she was expecting.

“We get it, Fangirl, you were good at math and you tormented your teacher because you didn’t have much else to do during class.”

I asked, early on in the school year, if I could be bumped up a grade level, as it was clear that I was competent in sixth grade math. Since the seventh grade is in another building in Nowhere, they said they couldn’t send me to seventh grade math classes. Could I be put in seventh grade and skip sixth entirely, since I was also proving more than competent in all of my other classes? Nobody ever told me why they couldn’t do that.

I found out recently that they took me so unseriously that they never asked either of my parents about this. Apparently it never once came up that little Fangirl was asking for a challenge. When my dad told my teacher I was leaving fake snakes in the bookshelves because I didn’t feel like I had anything else to do and like I was being ignored, she gave me more work. (Not higher level work, just more of the same.) I did some of it, got bored again, and fought with her when she threatened to give me zeros on the extra worksheets I didn’t do, because I refused to be held to a higher standard than the rest of the class without being held to a higher standard. (I won.)

What sixth grade taught me, basically, wasn’t that people would fight to keep me out of math classes, but that they would simply ignore me. It wasn’t that they actively wanted me to fail, they just didn’t particularly give a damn either way, as long as I at least passed and stopped rolling my eyes at the teacher. As a sixth grader, I had no idea to fight this; I did the best I could, but since the teacher wasn’t actively discouraging me, what was wrong wasn’t so obvious, and I didn’t know how to fix it. There weren’t dragons to hunt. I couldn’t come to a direct confrontation with her because she wasn’t being overtly sexist. She never told me “you can’t be good at math,” which is what I thought sexist people told girls; I had no way of knowing how to deal with this subtle sexism. I didn’t even think of it as discrimination; I just decided Mrs. H must be evil.

I wonder, now, how all of this would have played out if I had been a boy. It’s possible my teacher would have continued to ignore me, except when I acted out (which she did even during more traditionally feminine classes, like English, though that may have been out of spite for how I acted during math), but it’s also possible she would have taken me more seriously. I’ll never know, of course.

What ended up happening, ultimately, is that I stopped paying attention (which nobody noticed, because I continued to get high scores) for long enough that I eventually lost my edge and by the time I really needed to pay attention, I was a little lost, got discouraged and gave up because my teachers didn’t realize that I had stopped just not bothering to do the homework, but that I actually had no idea how to do it. This is mostly my fault, but not having been ignored when I told them I was going to stop listening if it was going to continue to be boring would have been nice.

I’m actually not terrible at math, at least not as bad at is as I think I am, though I’m much better in those subjects that later teachers encouraged me in (like media studies and social justice*).

It’s not always blatant attacks that keep girls out of math and science; in my experience, it was neglect that ultimately lead to me dropping the math ball and I’d be willing to bet Mrs. Hs are still all over the country, ignoring bored girls during math class, except to yell at them for reading while she’s talking. We need to teach girls how to identify and combat this more subtle sexism. What that would look like, I don’t know yet; I thought I knew how The Man was going to attack me, so I was prepared for a head-on assault, but what I got was a siege that lasted so long that I starved in my castle walls because I had no idea what to do, and I know there are other girls going through the same thing.

It’s not enough to get girls interested in math. We have to keep them interested in math, and we can do that by addressing the educational needs of individual girls and providing what we can to ensure those needs are met. (Which now gets me into a rant about the school system, but that will have to wait.)

Also, Mrs. H just needs to retire already.


*Hi, Mr. Bisson!

Written by Fangirl

March 4, 2010 at 8:16 am

Posted in women are people too

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