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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Not that Complicated

Jaclyn Friedman wrote a great column a couple of days ago about a Canadian case of “advance consent.” From the Montreal Gazette, (trigger warning, y’all) the case involves a woman who agreed to some asphyxiation play with her long-time partner, and woke up being sodomized with a toy.  The case is hinging on the idea of “advance consent” - the idea that someone can give a partner permission to sexual activities in advance.  Ten years ago, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that there was no such thing as “implied consent,” so I’m struggling to figure out why this case would be difficult for the court to decide.

This case provides, I think, some interesting light on the very big, very important, and difficult-at-times to parse subject of consent.  That the term “advance consent” is used at all here - the plaintiff in this case did not consent to the actions her partner took.  I don’t mean to say that she changed her mind; it sounds (from the news story) like she never gave consent for anal penetration period.  This isn’t like the advice column Dan Savage printed a while back about a couple interested in engaging in somniphilia for which the couple had talked about desires and made a determination of interest; the phrase “advance consent” in the Canadian case seems to mean…unlimited consent?  I don’t understand why we’d use that term the way that the courts are using it here.

You should go read her article.  Seriously.  Consent, people: it’s not that complicated.

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Posted by Dave on 11/11 • (0) CommentsPermalink

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Alcohol Doesn’t Rape

A couple of initial items today!  First, vote for BARCC in the Stay Classy Awards!  BARCC’s been nominated for a whole bunch of different things, including charity of the year and best use of social media.  I’m not saying that last nomination is entirely due to what Shira and I write here, but I’m basically saying that.  If BARCC wins, not only is it a cool honor to get, but there’s dollarbucks involved.  BARCC can seriously use more currency to continue it’s mission, so please get your vote on.

Item two: get your vote on..  I can’t be partisan (too much) in this space, but I can encourage people to exercise their franchise.  Do it!  Go participate in representative democracy!

Ok, administrative announcements complete.  Real post commence.

Last Thursday night was the annual BARCC Gala.  Because BARCC’s development team is full of rock stars and royalty, the gala raised a ton of money and was a great, fantastic, wonderful experience.  Part of the great, fantastic, wonderful experience of said gala is that there is free alcohol (well, free beer and wine, anyway).  It’s a cool occasion to get all dressed up, hang out with fellow volunteers, board members, and other folks committed to ending sexual violence, and get (a little) hammered at the same time.  I have a habit of bringing friends who then end up volunteering with BARCC after they realize that it’s such a cool organization, so if you want to work with BARCC but aren’t sure you’d fit in, contact me next October and I’ll bring you to the gala.  And you can check out my pocket watch, too, since I bust that out for big events like this.

Back to the alcohol, though.  Because the CAPS team is full of exciting, extroverted people, we liked to get our talk and good times on.  I enjoyed some beer ahead of dinner, and maybe had a little too much wine during dinner itself.  Afterwards, I might have had another couple of drinks in the hotel bar.  I’m a big dude, but I’m not impervious to liquor.  The next morning, my head let me know that I perhaps would have been wiser to be a little more restrained in my enjoyment of the evening.  Glancing over some friends’ facebook statuses, it was pretty clear that I wasn’t the only person who felt that way.  Hang-overs are good times!

Now, it might seem strange or even inappropriately to write so flippantly about alcohol on the rape crisis center blog.  Alcohol and sexual violence have a fraught relationship, or at least we’re often told they do.  We get a wonderful study every now and again that tells us that women who drink are more likely to be raped.  We hear this especially on college campuses: drinking impairs decision-making.  Make good decisions, don’t drink, and be clear about communication.  The reason I don’t have a huge problem writing about drinking on the BARCC blog is that alcohol is a boogey man for sexual assault and violence.  It’s an easy out for people who want to keep things the way they are now without having to address the root causes of sexual violence.  Alcohol use slows reaction time, lowers inhibitions, impairs decision making, and makes people voluntarily want to sing karaoke.  One thing alcohol cannot do, however, and has never done in the history of humanity, is rape someone.

Jill tackled a lot of this really well back earlier this year, here:

It’s tough to discuss the interplay between alcohol and sexual assault, because too often the conversation veers into "drinking will get you raped" territory, with women being warned of all the things they should or shouldn’t do in order to avoid rape. Of course, drinking won’t get you raped - only being in the presence of a rapist will result in rape. At the same time, though, rapists do use certain tools to get to their victims. Often, they exploit trust - if you’re a regular feminist blog reader, you probably know by now that most sexual assaults are committed by people the victim knows. Women are also much more likely to be assaulted in their own home or in the home of someone they know than in a public place - the rapist in the bushes exists, but isn’t nearly as common as the rapist you hung out with a few times.

And college dudes who rape their classmates? A lot of those dudes rely on alcohol. It makes their victims less able to physically resist, and it has the bonus of laying some of the blame on their victims. After all, dudes know that women are treated to Ways To Not Get Raped lectures all the time - don’t go out at night by yourself, don’t walk down a dark alley, don’t drink too much.

I think the one thing I can add here, and she covers it pretty well already, is that rapists use a lot of tools to get to their victims.  Alcohol is one way of making it harder for victims to resist, but to be honest, saying that alcohol facilitates rape is like saying "knowing men" facilitates rape.  Let’s look at all of the powerful, powerful tools that people who rape use to make their victims less capable of resisting:

     
  • Alcohol and drugs
  • Trust
  • Knowing the victim
  • A culture that supports their actions and doesn’t identify rape
  • Gender norms
  • Pretty much all of the organizing principles of a culture that devalues what women say and a legal system that is completely incapable of handling sexual assault

This intense focus on women to not drink, to not get themselves raped, has little to do with actually preventing sexual violence.  Why are we telling survivors of rape and sexual assault not to drink?  Why are we holding them responsible for anyone else’s conduct?

I think I need to start having more conversations with Holly over at the Pervocracy, because she keeps writing amazing posts about the exact same ideas I have, but saying them better.  So, I’ll let her say what I think about why we focus on women so much with the alcohol message:

Rape prevention tips tend to overlap suspiciously well with "be a proper little lady" tips. Gosh, dressing conservatively and not getting drunk and not being out on my own and not getting too close to strangers will protect me from rape! I’ll buy my prairie dress and arrange a suitable male escort home from my 7PM prayer meeting at once!

Having freedom of movement and expression isn’t worth getting raped, but frankly, it is worth a 0.0001% chance of getting raped. This tends to be discounted by people who drive on highways and take plane flights without a second thought.

Those messages we send to women about drinking have virtually nothing to do with stopping or ending sexual assault, and not a ton to do with the safety of women or survivors in general.  It’s a warning (especially on college campuses): if you drink, you don’t get social protection anymore.  We will consider you ripe for raping.  You did unfeminine things.  You acted out of your bounds.  Rape is the social punishment you get for that.

I believe this pretty firmly because the moment we step outside of the arena of sexual violence and its highly gendered sphere, we find much more directed messages about drinking.  Think of the drunk driving movement for a really good comparison.  Who is it, exactly, who is not supposed to drink?  Is it pedestrians?  Is it the people who are struck by cars operated by drunk drivers?  Is it the police who pull over drunk drivers?  No, of course not!  It’s the people who might potentially operate a motor vehicle while they are drunk.  The very successful efforts of groups like MADD have helped to shape our national consciousness in these situations - if you are hammered, you’re not supposed to drive.  You probably can’t control your car while drunk, you might not notice important road signs, and we know for a fact that drunk drivers are more likely to cause accidents.  Friends know it’s a bad idea to let each other drive drunk, and it’s not considered a terrible thing to intervene when a friend looks like they might try to drive drunk to call them a cab.

In none of these messages are we blaming someone hit by a drunk driver for the driver’s actions.  Our culture is quite capable of putting the blame for injury where it rightly belongs, except in this case of sexual assault and rape, where we just can’t seem to figure out that someone has to actually do the raping.  There’s a reason for that - rape and sexual assault sit directly on top of the fault line for how we organize the power in society.

For better or worse, a lot of mainstream culture’s social activities are built around the consumption of alcohol.  I’m a young-ish man, and I like meeting people and going out into the world, and oftentimes when I do so, I will drink.  Sometimes, I will drink heavily.  Expecting that women who exist in this culture will not get the same messages that I get, and expecting that they will abstain from things like drinking in order to maintain their perfect potential victim status is ludicrous.  Right now, we are offering women two choices: either don’t exist in the world as a normal person (don’t drink, don’t explore your sexuality, don’t wear provocative clothing, don’t talk to men), and we’ll believe you when you get raped, or exist as a normal person, but know ahead of time that culture will expect you to get raped and won’t do anything about it.

Social control, social control, social control.  When writers like Susan Brownmiller assert that rape is a cornerstone of patriarchy, this is what they are pointing out.  The messages come in a variety of ways, often times innocuously enough ("women who drink are more likely to be sexually assaulted"), but they all have the same purpose - to tell women what they can do in the world, and what they can’t.

I’m done with that.  If we can keep people from driving while drunk, or at least start to, then we can do the same for rape and sexual assault.  No one who drinks can rape themselves.  There is always a perpetrator in sexual violence.  Every time.  That perpetrator is the one responsible for 100% of the assault.  Every time, no excuses.

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Posted by Dave on 11/02 • (1) CommentsPermalink

Friday, October 29, 2010

Stay Classy!

In my last post, I exhorted you to vote for BARCC in the Classy Awards - I’m happy to report that we won in all three categories! We’ve now progressed to the national awards, and we need your help more than ever. We’re going up against some big charities here, and the stakes are high - $25,000 in one category and $10,000 in another.

Why should you vote for BARCC?

Specifically, why should you vote for BARCC if you don’t live in Boston? Because I know you Bostonians know how great BARCC is, and you know about all of the great services we offer. But if you’re in Chicago or Memphis - why vote for BARCC?

Because a vote for BARCC is not just a vote for BARCC. True, it gives us more money to do outreach, to do legal and legislative advocacy; it provides more coverage on the hotline, in the hospital, more counseling, more case management. But, hypothetical nonBostonian, how does that affect you?

Look. Rape and sexual assault are not a fun topic. Frankly, people would rather talk about food banks and soup kitchens, building homes and creating services for the disabled. And all of those are great and worthy causes. But if we win this, dear reader - that is attention to the issue of sexual violence on a national level. Our goal is not just to win the awards, but to start the conversation.

To that end, we’ve partnered with the other nominated rape crisis center, Peace Over Violence. Because it’s not just about us - it’s about fighting sexual violence.

So please go forth and vote for BARCC for Charity of the Year and Most Innovative Use of Social Media, and vote for Peace Over Violence for Most Effective Awareness Campaign! That money and that national recognition would be amazing things for the rape crisis center movement, and it costs you only a few seconds to click. Help us continue to fight sexual violence nationwide!

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Posted by Shira on 10/29 • (0) CommentsPermalink

Friday, October 22, 2010

Being a straight guy doesn’t make any sense

When was the last time you got two messages that contradicted each other, and you weren’t sure which one was right?  I’m talking seriously at-odds messages, like “don’t run out into the middle of a four lane road, you’ll get hit by a car!” on one hand, and “the E line stops right in the middle of a four lane road and I need to get on it!” level confused.  Both messages seem pretty reasonable - it’s generally a bad idea to run into the street where you can, in one glorious moment, be hit by a train, car, and bike all at once.  On the other hand, an entire public transportation line was set up to stop in the middle of a four lane road, and clearly people get on and off of it all the time.  What do you do?  How do you act?  How do you decide which message you’re going to listen to? 

My tradition is usually to watch other people and try to figure out what “most” folks do.  After a while I learned that, especially on the E line, you pretty much had to fling yourself out into the middle of Huntington Avenue around Mission Hill and just hope that the drivers didn’t crush you to death.  After getting some experience with this, I learned that because ‘‘m tall, I can throw my hands in front of traffic and drivers will usually stop.  I adapted the message to my particular life circumstances, and ignored the parts that I learned through experience and observation weren’t important. 

This strategy only works, though, if we have some sort of consistent behavior to observe.  What happens when we get two conflicting messages, and we can’t reconcile or evaluate them, because everyone else is just as confused as we are?  What if someone like me looks out into the world and is trying to figure out what to do about the content of these messages, and sees no clear model or sensible behavior?  What model does that person create for themselves?

We put women in double-binds like this all the time.  It’s one of the most devastatingly effective ways to keep an entire class of people confused and disorganized.  But I want to look at a double-bind for straight men today, since that’s what I consider myself to be, and because I think it’s a pivotal point in sexual violence.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m a straight dude.  Now, because of gender branding, in contemporary America saying that I’m a “straight dude” means a relatively specific set of things socially, mentally, and culturally.  Regular readers have probably recognized that I come down solidly on the ‘nurture’ side of the nature vs. nurture debate, and that’s why I think so many straight men seem to have so much in common - because we’ve been trained to be a certain way.  I’m not so in the tank for nurture, though, that I can completely ignore biology.  The impetus to reproduce is a damn strong one, and sex is a powerful motivating force in my life.  I can recognize that at least a component of that motivation is biological, and would exist even if I weren’t being socially trained.

Social messages love to emphasize this biological motivation.  I’m digging around some fraught issues here, especially when it comes to things like objectification and beauty standards, but I think I’m on pretty safe ground when I say that a primary component of what the advertisement below is saying is that straight men want women’s bodies - that sex is awesome, sex with women is awesome, and that it is natural and fair to desire women.  The second, third, etc. parts of this message are helping to create a narrow cultural view of what women are, but that isn’t the scope of this particular post.  The basic message: women’s bodies are so beautiful, so enjoyable to look at and exert so powerful a hold on the straight male mind because even god had the same desires we did.  To be fair: these same ideas are also targeted to anyone who is attracted to women’s bodies, not just people who identify as men, but I’d argue that the majority of advertising especially is geared towards the male gaze, and that outlets that cater specifically to lesbians or the queer community use different strategies.

This particular ad is a stand-in for my biological desires.  It’s well recognized in this culture that I, as a straight man who is biologically male, am both allowed and expected to want the female body.  I don’t generally have a problem with social messages that allow people to have the feelings they do; as long as those message don’t go beyond encouraging people to own their emotions.  I am allowed to lust the crap out of anyone I want, as long as that social freedom stops the moment it goes beyond my brain.  What I think and feel internally are all mine, and I don’t have to tell a damn person about it.  Once it moves from beyond my brain into the world of physical reality, though - that’s when it’s not my social right anymore to do with as I please. 

It’s good to own my lust.  I like it, because I identify as a sexual person.  I like looking at women, and I enjoy as a part of my identity that this enjoyment is a part of me.  I also know it’s my job to make sure that doesn’t affect anyone else who doesn’t expressly tell me that want to be affected by it.  So far, so good - I get social messages that tell me, as a straight man, that my biological urges are generally OK; that wanting women’s bodies is not only something I’m allowed to do, but that a lot of other people feel the same way I do.  I learn from comedies like The Hangover that it’s not particularly unusual for straight men to spend a lot of time thinking about or engineering ways to be with women sexually, or to experience women’s sexuality, and insofar as all of that activity is consensual and non-coerced, I’m ok with that.  I learn through this category of messages that it’s reasonable to expect that this lust for women’s bodies is going to, at times in my life, be exceptionally powerful.

If that were the main message that straight men got about our sexuality…wow, this would be a much better world, with probably a lot more good sex, too.  We’d still have a lot of problems - teaching young straight boys that women are people, and not just boobs, would still be necessary.  At least this message on its own isn’t so damn toxic, though.

The problem is that this is not the only message I’m given about my sexuality and specifically, about my relationship to women.  Alongside the acceptance for my desire for women is another message.

What is this ad telling me, as a man who is attracted to women?  There’s probably a thousand different general ideas we could get out of this, but I think a pretty basic one is: don’t do anything that women do.  If you are a man, if you do anything that is associated with women (like wearing heels), then you will need karate lessons either to fight off the other dudes who will kick the crap out of you, or you need karate lessons to make you a man again.  Doing things that women do, or like, or participate in, will corrupt you.  It will steal your man-ness!  Stay away from them! 

Girls and women are weak.  They are contagious.  They can infect me, the noble straight man, and rob me of my vitality and my masculinity and my power.  Strangely enough, we can use The Hangover to look at both messages: yes, it’‘s normal for guys to lust after women’s bodies and experience desire, but the moment you form a bond with a woman, you are an emasculated, pussy-whipped bitch with no backbone.  That fact that even the terms we use to describe a lack of strength are gendered is a pretty good indication of what culture thinks of women’s strength.  The site Sociological Images is a great place to check out a (depressingly) large number of other major media products that help emphasize these ideas; from t-shirts to print ads to movie trailers, the idea that men should hate women for being weak and contagious is not limited to a small niche of current American culture.

Here’s what I’m facing then, as a young straight man in the world: I am biologically driven to be sexually interested in women, and there’s a lot of social messages that support that this desire is legitimate, shared, and experienced broadly, but I’m not supposed to like or even really tolerate women.  Their bodies have power, but they themselves do not.  Also, I’m not supposed to want to do anything that women like, so how does that whole ‘consent-and-sex’ thing work?  If I like having sex with women, and they are vocal about also wanting to have sex with me, does that mean I’m losing my power?  Sadly, a lot of men, a very very sizable portion of men, who absolutely do not know how to reconcile these two competing ideas and never learn that they are allowed to reject the second message.
 
A few weeks ago, Thomas posted some disturbing, but unfortunately not uncommon rants of some Men’s Rights Activists (for serious trigger warning).  You can see the thought pattern, just beneath the words (or sometimes, directly in them).  It goes something like this:

“I HATE women.  They are so much…LESS than me.  How do they have this sexual power over me?  I am told every morning pretty much upon waking up and looking at those stupid-ass Stella Artois commercials that women are literally not my equals as SENTIENT BEINGS, but they have these BODIES that I want SO BADLY.  And you’re telling me that somehow these weak, confused THINGS have the ability to deny their bodies to me?  Seriously?  If women are weak and I hate them, why do I want them so much?  THAT DOESN’T MAKE ANY SENSE.” 

It doesn’t make any sense.  It’s completely senseless, completely confusing, and totally alienating.  These messages also run deep.  It takes a long, long time to get away from them, if that’s even possible.  But it’s work we’ve got to do.  We have got to find ways to start chopping away at that second message, or make it a lot clearer in real life that no one follows it or care about it.  If men are the majority of perpetrators of sexual violence, the only way to substantially affect sexual violence in this country is to get men to a place where they realize that they don’t hate women, and that it’s possible for them to reject messages them tell them that they should. 

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Posted by Dave on 10/22 • (2) CommentsPermalink

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Patriarchy City Planning

Get ready for an unreasonably long post!  This is what law school does to my brain!

National Coming Out Day was this Monday.  The rash of suicides among LGBT youth in 2010 made this particularly poignant this year.  Aside from the anger I felt about the bigotry and madness of the people who pushed those kids into suicide, Coming Out Day also reminded me partly why homophobia is so rampant and why it’s connected with the big ideas of oppression that also direct my sexual violence prevention work.

All systems of oppression privilege certain groups in society over others.  In patriarchy, we’re generally talking about privileging men over women: how much money each group gets to acquire, how much power they can amass, how they can go about their lives in the world.  Since these systems of oppression become foundational aspects of the ways we organize the entirety of society, let’s do a thought experiment.  I want you to assume that you are the patriarchy for a moment (mmm…tastes so…oppressiony).  You, as the patriarchy, are acting like a city planner, and here’s your task: make sure that men get more power than women, in your planned town.  You’ve got a lot of problems to work out with that directive, aside from being a system of oppression.

How do you do that?  You could take a biological approach, and flat out decide that anyone with a penis wins the status, and anyone with a vagina gets screwed.  If you did that, though, how would you know for sure who gets what?  Again, we’re thinking roughly like (evil) city planners here: how would we KNOW if someone has a vagina or not?  Genitals aren’t really visible if people are wearing clothing, right?  And people are smart - if they realize that only the be-penised get social power and status, they’ll start stuffing socks and zucchinis in their pants or skirts or utili-kilts to make it LOOK like they have penises, and then where would you be?  On top of all that, what would you do with people who have ambiguous genitalia?  What if they have something like Androgyne Insensitivity Syndrome, and so might be chromosonally male, but don’t have penises?  Where do you put them on the male/female dichotomy?

In this case, you’d probably end up not giving the power you want to a lot of men, and accidentally giving a lot of power you don’t want to give to women.  Unacceptable, patriarchy.  You’re not performing like a diligent system of oppression would.  Clearly, this strict genital technique alone isn’t going to work, if we really want to make sure our (evil) planned city is going to get its oppression on the way we want it to.

Let’s look at some other options.  We could try to do a modified biological approach, where we look at ranges of things aside from genitals alone to determine who gets to be a male or female.  You could look at height, or body weight, or maybe muscle mass.  You could look at facial hair growth and maybe overall hair growth.  These things are a lot easier to see, on the surface, than genitals are, so we solve that “what genitals do you have?” question, but this technique still suffers from a lot of problems.  People of all genders overlap in these areas.  Some men are really tall and really thin and some women are really tall and thin, and if you have a decent enough sample size, you’ll probably start to see that weight, height, BMI, etc., are only very vague indicators of what sex someone is.  And, these techniques do nothing to get around that issue of how you distribute power to those people who have ambiguous sex.     

In this case, we might solve that one issue of genital confusion by making height and weight and general body type a proxy measure of what genitals someone has, but you’re still going to end up giving a lot of that power you’re supposed to be giving to men to women who just happen to fit into the distribution curve for what you’ve decided equals “man.” You are not being efficient enough in your oppression, patriarchy!  The other oppressions are nervous about your job performance.

Now, both of these ideas so far are very much in the realm of the physical, and not as much in the social (although of course social factors affect things like height).  But by and large, these two approaches above exist in the realm of what people are, not what they do.  I happen to be tall - my bones and muscle structure made me a large person, and I didn’t really have any conscious control over that.  As we can see so far, limiting our oppression to what people are physiologically doesn’t really let you satisfy your evil city planner system of oppression job requirements because physiology is tricky stuff to determine at a glance.  We’re going to need to get into something a little more amorphous to truly get our inspired oppression on - we’re going to need to modify what people do.

Here, our planning team of evil oppressionville is thinking a little bit differently.  How can we take those ideas above (the biological stuff), and make those proxy variables a lot more reliable?  How can we find easily identifiable ways to categorize people so that we can efficiently extend either unwarranted social privilege or sanctions against them?  We know that things like height and weight aren’t really enough. 

But what if we provide a whole bunch of messages over time about what people are supposed to look like, and how they are supposed to act?  And what if we point those messages at a really core biological drive, like say reproduction?  Let’s tell everybody in evil oppressionville that women, in order to attractive enough to find men who want to have sex with them, or to be worthy of love and/or companionship, need to have a) certain physical traits, b) certain types of clothing, and c) specific mannerisms, attitudes, and ways of interacting with men.  Likewise, let’s tell men something very different, but in the same categories.  And, even better, let’s make sure that the content of what we tell women in each of those categories makes them dependent on men.  Let’s make sure that everything we tell the women is more onerous, dangerous, or expensive than what we tell men.  Let’s make sure that we tell men that women are worthless.

Ok, now we’re cooking.  While we’re still not perfectly efficient because we can’t stop everyone at the door and check their genitals, we’ve got a new set of proxy variables that are a lot more effective than height or weight by which to make the assumption about someone’s sex (and therefore, how much power they should get).  Someone who is wearing a skirt, high heels, and has long hair isn’t guaranteed to be a woman, but those are much better indicators to our evil patriarchy planning team that the person is probably a woman than her height or weight.

This is good, for our evil oppression team.  Things are working out much better now, in that we are able to oppress very efficiently.  The more these social messages get entrenched, the harder they will be to fight.  Here, we’ve swapped trying to oppress people by finding out who they are by oppressing them based on what they do.  If we can keep the stories going for long enough, people might even start to confuse the distinction between the two, and assume that what they do is who they are.  If we’re lucky, the people then will start to perpetuate these ideas on their own, and we won’t need to use major tools like the media or law to push the messages.  They’ll get absorbed into people’s cultures and identities.  People will assume that the differences in behavior are natural, and they might even start mostly crap academic disciplines like evolutionary psychology to pretend to explain them.  The women we’re oppressing will generally know that the deck is stacked against them, and some of them will fight that, but most of the men probably won’t.  In fact, a chunk of them will invest a substantial portion of their identity and work in trying to keep things the way they are, in either support of “tradition” or “family” or some other term that means “status quo.”  The women who do fight against the system will, if our patriarchy planning team entrenched the messages deep enough, have to fight against not only us, but all of the rest of society, too.  We’re looking pretty good right now - we’ve got a self-perpetuating system that tells men and women how to act.  That serves our dual purpose of making it easy for us to identify who’s who, and therefore pay out social and economic and legal rewards appropriately, and also helps to make sure women don’t have the ability to easily fight back because they don’t want to lose the few social privileges they have right now.  Just in case, though, we might want to push some messages that women aren’t full people, just so that the men will help do our work for us by keeping the women from getting too out of control with the whole questioning of the system thing. 

BUT WAIT!  You aren’t out of the forest yet, evil patriarchy city planner!  You thought you had it all wrapped up, too, didn’t you?  We have a nice, self-perpetuating system that would let us continue to inequally divide social resources and power amongst the genders to keep men on top, and it might not even take a whole lot more work from us.  A couple of good toxic messages, a couple of generations of reinforcement, and we’re good to go.  Of course that’s not gonna work, though.  People are unpredictable!

You remember those people we had problems figuring out what to do with before?  The ones who had ambiguous genitalia, or an unusual condition?  You still haven’t accounted for them, and some of them are following the messages we told men to follow!  They are gaming the system we set out to efficiently oppress people!

Furthermore, there’s this other group - they seem to be sexually attracted to people of their own gender.  Our self-perpetuating system doesn’t seem to work quite as well on them.  They know they are in a minority; most people are straight, and they seem to push the boundaries of our system a little more.  If these women, these lesbians don’t care as much about what they need to do and look like in order to attract a man, because they DON’T WANT A MAN, then they are less vulnerable to our proxy variables!  They might not act like other women!  They might even sometimes do things that we tell MEN to do.  And if they do that, then maybe other women will realize that women can act like men, at least some of the time!  And the gay men!  They might make other men think that some of the things we tell men to do are ridiculous!  In both cases, they also show the rest of society that the messages we gave them about finding love and passion and sex are mostly untrue!  This is completely unacceptable!

These people don’t want to buy into our system completely.  Their existence threatens the stability of our oppression.  These GAY people, these TRANS people, they are a threat to the way we have organized the power in our society.  They put the lie to the social messages we’ve spread to everyone else.  They might help to show the rest of society that we’ve been misleading people about the difference between who you are and what you do.  That distinction, and blurring it, is what makes our proxy oppression variables work - we can’t allow that to happen. 

In order to silence this threat, we need to take drastic measures.  We need to find a way to get the rest of society not to listen to them.  Here’s what you should do, evil patriarchy city planner: tell everyone that this subset of the culture is a disease.  Tell everyone that the LGBT population can infect others.  Tell the society that anyone who steps over those boundaries of acceptable gendered behavior will never get laid again ever in their lives ever ever (ever!), they might also ‘catch’ gayness and be permanently ostracized.  This will help keep the majority in line, and it might be solidify those rules we gave them, because now they’re not only acting on our groundrules because they want love, attention and respect, they’ll also do it out of fear.  The more we can get the majority to fear this smaller group, the less they will tolerate them, too.

And make sure you repeatedly tell this LGBT group that they are stupid, worthless, unusual and freakish.  Then, we can let social isolation and the fear we’ve already installed in everyone else help silence them!  Then the world will go on as before, with only a token group of people who resist our oppression on the margins. 

Because if the patriarchy didn’t tell everyone to hate and fear the LGBT population, then maybe they’d see that you can be a lot of different things, and still find people who like, love, and welcome you, and that our rules for behavior are mostly gendered and mostly crap.  They might help to show the rest of the world that the completely bullshit distribution of power between the genders has nothing to do with reality, nothing to do with “nature,” and everything to do with oppression and limited people.

Homophobia is the self-defense mechanism of the patriarchy for dealing with a substantial threat, just like rape is the enforcement tool of patriarchy to keep women afraid of men and in line (and following those behavioral codes).  If you fend off the tools (homophobia and rape), you weaken the system of oppression.  And hopefully, our patriarchy city planner gets hir ass fired and replaced by a group that knows how to lay out a society based on reason and fairness.  Hopefully.

A little bit of activism to go along with your blogging.  October 20th is being pushed as Spirit Day, and a remembrance of the LGBT youth suicides.  Wear purple if you got it.

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Posted by Dave on 10/14 • (0) CommentsPermalink

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