Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tales From the Matriarchy

[TW: Misogyny, gender essentialism, male supremacism]

In her collection of critical essays To Write Like A Woman, Joanna Russ articulated that really crappy anti-feminist science fiction is often characterized by an incoherent "collapse of a gynocracy that is both impressively powerful and totally incompetent." The collapse of the gynocracy, she noted of these stories, usually came about after a Traitor Woman found herself seduced by a man possessing a Sacred Phallic Object.

Let's just keep that theme in mind.

I recently stumbled upon a bizarre "Manifesto for Conscious Women" written by the husband-wife team of John Cole and Mary Allen, who seem to run a kind of New Agey life coach site. The manifesto is a reaction to the "Manifesto for Conscious Men," a manifesto also deserving of critique, but which I'm not gong to touch on today.

Anyway, while John apparently wrote the first draft of this "Manifesto For Conscious Women," "together" the duo allegedly "shaped it" into a form that they submitted to The Huffington Post. Now, I know what you're thinking. Why wouldn't a man write a manifesto that is purportedly coming from women? What could possibly go wrong?

Well, HuffPo apparently rejected the manifesto for publication, indicating that stuff might have gone wrong. But don't you worry, dear readers, I ain't afraida no anti-feminism here. For, every time an anti-woman/anti-feminist piece is rejected for being not a good fit at a progressive blog, an anti-feminist becomes further entrenched in the conviction that the PC Police are just too scared of their awesome intellectual ability to Tell It Like It Really Is.

For, John and Mary start:

"We’re now sharing the Manifesto at my Everyday Inner Peace blog, because one of the biggest keys to inner peace is recognizing and acknowledging reality 'as it is.' We may like reality or we may be repulsed by reality. Regardless, 'seeing clearly' is where sanity begins." (emphasis in original)

Below, I've highlighted some of the most...interesting snippets of John's (oh, and Mary's) manifesto from women to men.

You will notice, first, that this manifesto is premised upon the assumption that the class "Woman" is a ginormous, bitchy, powerful, incompetent monolith, meaning that each individual woman is responsible for, and therefore must apologize for, the wrongs that any other woman in the world has ever inflicted upon a man.

Yet, men, too, are also presented as a monolith. A quite awesome one at that, wherein the Great Achievements of some men are a reflection of the greatness of each individual man. Men are incredibly competent, but mysteriously they lack power in our modern-day matriarchy. You'll see what I mean:

"[As a woman to men,] I honor you for giving me a voice in shaping society through the right to vote. I apologize for bringing my instincts for security over freedom into politics and eroding America’s freedom by pushing socialist policies that are bankrupting this country."

LOL. Thanks guys for letting us ladies vote! Sorry that we actually vote.

It continues:

"[As a woman to men,] I honor you for creating millions of jobs through enterprise, ingenuity and hard work. Thank you for inviting me to work beside you. I apologize for disrupting the workplace. I apologize for bringing my hypergamous instincts and provocative dress into the workplace, thereby disordering what was once a well functioning and highly productive male hierarchy. I apologize for introducing sexual harassment policies that destroy workplace cohesion.

What John and Mary call "what was once a well functioning and highly productive male hierarchy," I call a "gigantic affirmative action program for men in white collar and many blue collar professions that was sustained by the stifled potential of women."

Implicit in this complaint is a longing for a return to all-male professional environments where men don't have to compete with women as equals. Also, notice the essentialist assumption that men are incapable of viewing women as anything other than sex objects and are, therefore, entitled to professionally bond with other men over this view of women.

The manifesto continues:

"[As a woman to men,] I acknowledge that boys and girls have different learning styles and we have radically shifted education to support girls. I realize how important men are as teachers and I apologize for driving men out of the teaching industry on fears of pedophilia accusations. I apologize to little boys for subjecting them to a feminized education experience that impedes learning, denigrates men and drives them out of higher education.

[As a woman to men,] I honor you for wanting to fully develop your mind so you can maximize your contribution to humanity. I apologize for watering down the high-stakes, high-abstraction, high difficulty standards boys thrive on in exchange for the low difficulty continuous assessment that favors girls. I apologize for all the boys that would be valedictorians if intelligence mattered rather than the ability to perform mind-numbing tasks....

I appreciate men for creating room for me in higher education. I apologize for squandering society’s scarce higher education resources. I apologize for using affirmative action laws to exclude a better qualified man from the first-rate graduate program and then quitting my 'career' after only a few years in business."

Isn't it funny to watch the "equality means equal opportunity, not equal outcomes" crowd scramble to deal with statistics that show girls have better outcomes than boys at stuff?

Taking it as self-evident statement of truth that male and female humans have vast biological differences with respect to intelligence wherein of course male humans are our intellectual superiors, many anti-feminists and MRAs cannot even fathom that girls might be doing better in school and college because girls are smarter or more competent than boys on average.

Not that that's what I necessarily think. Rather, my point is that it's indicative of some serious male supremacist assumptions when gender essentialists who so readily leap to non-essentialist explanations for when men or boys have negative outcomes, completely reject non-essentialist explanations when girls or women have negative outcomes.

Indeed, here, John/Mary take it as a given that So Many Boys would be valedictorians instead of girls, if only schools measured intelligence instead of a student's so-called ability to perform "mind-numbing tasks," if affirmative action policies didn't favor girls, and if boys didn't have to endure a "feminized education experience."

Given the individual variation that exists within each gender with respect to what types of teaching work best, it would be more helpful to both boys and girls if we stopped stereotyping certain ways of learning and teaching as "masculine" and "feminine." As we see in John/Mary's piece, the "feminine" way of learning and teaching, and girls and women by extension, invariably get denigrated as inferior whenever a comparison is made to "masculinity."

It continues:

"I acknowledge how virtually every show on TV portrays men as bumbling idiots while portraying women as smart, when the facts show much the opposite."


Many TV shows do portray men as "bumbling idiots." That's not okay. But John? Mary? Ya lost me when you assert that it's a "fact" that it's actually women who are the "bumbling idiots."

The whole thing is really quite a fantastic reverse projection of what, I believe, many anti-feminists and MRAs believe feminism to be: an assertion of the supremacy of one sex and the denigration of another.

For, the manifesto's ironic parting shot:

"[As a woman to men,] I promise not to confuse honoring women with denigrating men. I promise not to think less of myself for acknowledging men. We all have gifts and strengths and no one deserves preferential worship."

Oh. Okay then.

Joanna Russ, concluded her critique of anti-feminist science fiction by noting, "I think it is clear by now that these stories are not only not written for women; they are not written about women. To quote Michael Korda, in Male Chauvinism: 'Men as a rule don't hate [women]....They just don't want to know anything about them." Women are merely "drafted as a permanent class of worshippers."

Likewise, this manifesto is, literally, not written for women.

It is a document purportedly from women to men. Aside from making tangential appearances as the Extremely Powerful-Yet-Totally-Incompetent Ruiners Of Everything, the document is not really about women either. It is primarily a vehicle in which men can observe women oberving men's amazing, supreme awesomeness.

No comments: