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   The precarious social positioning and aspirations that hamstring women described by Beauvoir in 1949, still ring true today.

“In The Second Sex (1949), Simone de Beauvoir argued that women were at a disadvantage in a society where they grew up under ‘a multiplicity of incompatible myths’ about women. Instead of being encouraged to dream their own dreams and pursue meaningful projects for their lives, Beauvoir argued that the ‘myths’ proposed to women, whether in literature or history, science or psychoanalysis, encouraged them to believe that to be a woman was to be for others – and especially for men. Throughout childhood, girls were fed a steady diet of stories that led them to believe that to succeed as a woman was to succeed at love – and that to succeed at other things would make them less lovable. 

Although some of Beauvoir’s claims have dated, her method in The Second Sex was groundbreaking, two-fold and still worthy of attention: in the first volume, she explored some ‘facts and myths’ that had been written about women by men. In the second, she sought to describe what it is like for women to become women in the world where men defined them in these ways – and how it led many to feel divided and dissatisfied.

Whereas boys were brought up to believe that they could value their own independence and creativity and have flourishing personal relationships, on Beauvoir’s analysis, a woman’s education too often led her to feel ‘torn’ between choosing freedom and choosing love. ‘Woman’, she wrote, is ‘doomed’ to feelings of failure and guilt, because if she succeeded at conforming to mythical ideals of femininity she would be a mirage, not a person. She was expected to embody ‘an inhuman entity: the strong woman, the admirable mother, the virtuous woman, and so on’. Because femininity is so closely associated with prioritising the needs of others, with being likeable and giving, when a woman ‘thinks, dreams, sleeps, desires, and aspires’ for herself, she becomes less feminine – which, in the social currency of 1949 at least, meant she became a worse woman.”

    Oh my goodness, an actual intersectional analysis of oppression.  Thank you Shanita Hubbbard.  I would recommend reading the entire article as this pull quote merely sets the stage for a vivid example of multiple axis of oppression that black women face growing up in our white patriarchal society.

 

“There’s an intersection in almost every hood that teaches young girls lessons about power, racism and sexism. In the projects, where I grew up, I had to pass it almost every day to get home from school.

This intersection is where some of the guys from the neighborhood would stand around, play music, trash-talk about which artist should hold the title of greatest rapper, and then, suddenly, turn into dangerous predators when young girls walked by. This is where young girls like me learned to shrink into ourselves and remain silent.

On this intersection, like so many others in the world, your body and sense of safety were both up for grabs. On a good day, if you and a girlfriend remained silent, walking past the group of “corner dudes,” who were all about 15 years your senior and screaming about what they would do to your 12-year-old body, would be a short-lived experience.

On other days, especially if you were walking alone, things would escalate quickly. One of the men would grab your butt and you would pretend you didn’t feel it. Fighting back would make things worse: If you resisted, they would scream at you, curse at you and, in one particular case, attempt to follow you home until you ran inside a store and waited them out. But cross this intersection enough times and such things start to feel normal.”

MarryWollstonecraft       “Wollstonecraft concentrated on describing the state of ignorance and servility to which women were condemned by social custom and training.  The passionate feeling with which her book is imbued give it wide social appeal and persuasive power.  […]  Wollstonecraft’s acute question – “how many generations may be necessary to give vigour to the virtue and talents of the freed posterity of abject slaves?’ – still has pertinence. “

Excerpts from A Vindication of the Rights of Woman –

“And if it be granted that women was not created merely to gratify the appetite of man, or to be the upper servant, who provides his meals and takes care of his linen, it must follow, that the first care of those mothers or fathers, who really attend to the education of females, should be, if not to strengthen the body, at least, not to destroy the constitution by mistaken notions of beauty and female excellence…

To preserve personal beauty, woman’s glory!  the limbs and faculties are cramped with worse than Chinese bands, and the sedentary life which they are condemned to live, whilst boys frolic in the open air, weakens the muscles and relaxes the nerves.  As for Rousseau’s remarks… that they have naturally, that is from their birth, independent of education, a fondness for dolls, dressing, and talking – they are so puerile as not to merit a serious refutation…

I have, probably, had an opportunity of observing more girls in their infancy that J.J. Rousseau – I can recollect my only feelings, and I have looked steadily around me; yet, so far with coinciding with him in opinion respecting the first dawn of the female character, I will venture to affirm, that a girl, whose spirits have not been damped by inactivity, or innocence tainted by false shame, will always be a romp, and the doll will never excite attention unless confinement allows her no alternative.  Girls and boys, in short, would play harmlessly together, if the distinction of sex was not inculcated long before nature makes any difference.  I will go further, and affirm, as an indisputable fact, that most of the women, in the circle of my observation, who have acted like rational creatures, or shown any vigour of intellection, have accidentally allowed to run wild…  ”

-Ed. Miriam Schneir. Feminism: The Essential Historical Writings. pp 13 – 14.

     Let it be known that in the 18th century the processes of female socialization were known to women.  Fast forward to the present and we are still presented with arguments about how biology plays an overarching role in determining female social status in society.  Of course, admitting that society and the socialization that goes along with it is inherently unjust to women, as opposed to calcified biological fact, would lead us to conclusion that society has been set up for the benefit of one sex, at the expense of the other.   Social norms are malleable, biology not so much.  I know which case I would rally around if I was trying to justify the inherent injustice that exists.

The lived experiences of women are fundamentally different than men.  Go to This Ain’t Livin’ blog for the full post.

“This is the society we live in: it’s difficult for women and people socialised as women to assert their boundaries because they were trained to have no boundaries, and consequently, have to build them up as adults. It’s hard for us to scream in people’s faces, or say ‘no,’ and we have to learn this — which is why some self-defense classes have entire programs dedicated to getting participants to scream, to yell, to shout for help. To get them used to coming at a man wearing heavy gear, pounding at him with all they’ve got, saying ‘NO!

And the consequence of learning boundaries and creating a safer world for ourselves is that we’re punished for it. We’re oversensitive, we’re bitches, we’re cunts, we’re being ridiculous. This is a society that takes our boundaries away at birth on the basis of the genitals we’re dealt, and then registers deep offense when we seize them back.”

A helpful primer for the dudes out there.   Thank you, Fugitivus

 

“Here’s a situation every woman is familiar with: some guy she knows, perhaps a casual acquaintance, perhaps just some dude at the bus stop, is obviously infatuated with her. He’s making conversation, he’s giving her the eye. She doesn’t like him. She doesn’t want to talk to him. She doesn’t want him near her. He is freaking her out. She could disobey the rules, and tell him to GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM HER, and continue screaming GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME every time he tries to step closer, or speak to her again. And then he will be all, “I was just talking to you! WTF!” and everybody else will be all, “Yeah, seriously, why’d you freak out at a guy just talking to you?” and refuse to offer the support she needs to be safe from dude. Or, the guy might become hostile, violent even. Ladies, you’ve seen that look, the “bitch can’t ignore me” look. It’s a source of constant confusion, as soon as you start budding breasts, that the man who just a moment ago told you how pretty you are is now calling you a stupid ugly whore, all because you didn’t get in his car. OR

You could follow the rules. You could flirt back a little, look meek, not talk, not move away. You might have to put up with a lot more talking, you might have to put up with him trying to ask you out to lunch every day, you might even have to go out to lunch with him. You might have to deal with him copping a feel. But he won’t turn violent on you, and neither will the spectators who have watched him browbeat you into a frightened and flirtatious corner.

So we learn the rules will protect us. We learn that, when we step out of line, somebody around us might very well turn crazy. Might hurt us. And we won’t be defended by onlookers, who think we’ve provoked the crazy somehow. So, having your ass grabbed at the bus stop, having to go out to dinner with a guy you fucking can’t stand, maybe even having to fuck him once or twice, it’s a small sacrifice to avoid being ostracized, insulted, verbally abused, and possibly physically assaulted.

It’s a rude fucking awakening when a woman gets raped, and follows the rules she has been taught her whole life — doesn’t refuse to talk, doesn’t refuse to flirt, doesn’t walk away ignoring him, doesn’t hit, doesn’t scream, doesn’t fight, doesn’t raise her voice, doesn’t deny she liked kissing — and finds out after that she is now to blame for the rape. She followed the rules. The rules that were supposed to keep the rape from happening. The rules that would keep her from being fair game for verbal and physical abuse. Breaking the rules is supposed to result in punishment, not following them. For every time she lowered her voice, let go of a boundary, didn’t move away, let her needs be conveniently misinterpreted, and was given positive reinforcement and a place in society, she is now being told that all that was wrong, this one time, and she should have known that, duh.

For anybody who has ever watched the gendered social interactions of women — watched a woman get browbeaten into accepting attention she doesn’t want, watched a woman get interrupted while speaking, watched a woman deny she is upset at being insulted in public, watched a woman get grabbed because of what she was wearing, watched a woman stop arguing — and said and done nothing, you never have the right to ever ask, “Why didn’t she fight back?”

She didn’t fight back because you told her not to. Ever. Ever. You told her that was okay, and necessary, and right.

You didn’t give her a caveat. You didn’t say, “Unless…” You said, “Good for you, shutting up and backing down 99% of the time. Too bad that 1% of the time makes you a fucking whore who deserved it.”

Nobody obtains the superpower to behave dramatically differently during a frightening confrontation. Women will behave the same way they have been taught to behave in all social, professional, and sexual interactions. And they will be pretty goddamned surprised to come out the other end and find out that means they can legally be raped at any time, by just about anybody.”

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